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             Media Freedom:

      They Don't Keep Us 

              In Fear, But In Sight

    Jelena Paunović

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"Attacks on journalists are a serious problem in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) and represent a symptom of an ill society," it was stated at a public panel called “Attacks on the Press,” which was held on Tuesday, January 13, 2015, in Mostar and was organized by the Center for Critical Thinking and Tacno.net portal. 

 

"In the last nine years, 400 cases of violations of freedom of speech and the rights of journalists were registered in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Helpline for Journalists has recorded 60 physical attacks on journalists and 17 death threats in the last eight years, and only in 9 cases criminal charges were pursued, seven of which were treated as infractions, and only two as criminal proceedings," according to information stated in the letter of support from Dunja Mijatovic, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media.

 

The reason behind organizing this panel was due to two recent cases of attacks on journalists. On December 15, 2014, BiH news portal Klix.ba released an audio recording of a telephone conversation in which Prime Minister of the Republic of Serbia Zeljko Cvijanovic could be heard talking about buying off of parliament ministers. As a result of the published article based on the secret recording, the police raided the offices of Klix.ba. 

 

 

The confiscated items were returned to the reporters two weeks later. In this case, the overseeing institutions were investigating the source of the controversial footage, rather than authenticating the recording and investigating whether the Prime Minister really intended to buy off parliamentary ministers. Štefica Galić: They Don't Keep Us in Fear, But In Sight editor-in-chief of the portal Tacno.net, and editor Amer Bahtijar were attacked on January 2.

 

They were confronted after leaving a movie theater where they watched a movie with the three-year-old granddaughter of the editor-in-chief. An group of men cut them off on the street and began to insult them. This escalated to open threats that they would end up like Professor Slano Kukić who was recently beaten up in Mostar. 

 

"My circle around Mostar is getting smaller," says the prominent journalist. "I work all day long and at night I take a walk. This was not the only attack that happened. We experienced attacks from those on the left and the right, nationalists of all kinds. We had problems when we wrote about Kosovo, about Islamists, and chauvinism on all sides,” said Galić in the interview for BiH portal Dnevni-list.ba in response to the question of whether she was scared. 

 

Štefica Galić: Heroine In The Role Of A Victim

 

To recap, Galić was the victim of a physical assault in July, 2012 after releasing a movie about her husband. The brutal attack occurred just two days after the premier of the film "Neđo od Ljubuškog,” which told the story of her husband who helped Bosniaks during the war and fought to prevent them from going to the “Heliport" wartime camp.             

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Štefica Galić, journalist and widow of Nedeljko Neđo Galić, was physically attacked in 2012. 

Photograph in the public domain

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The Bosnian hero Nedeljko Neđo Galić, who was responsible for saving the lives of at least 1000 ethnic-minorities, was awarded for his civil courage during the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1991-1995). In August of 1993 Nedjo helped Bosniak Muslim citizens escape from Ljubuski by faking phone calls from abroad and securing forged documents and thus avoid deportation by Croatian nationalists to a concen-tration camp and certain death.

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During the film premier, the entire Galic family, the author of the film and all of the witnesses featured in the film, received death threats because the movie was based on true events of the attempt to ethnically cleanse Bosniaks from Ljubuški in 1993. 

 

“The movie is about my husband, about us, and several others from Ljubuski who mustered some superhuman strength to publicly oppose the persecution of Bosniaks and to save them in any way possible from terror and going to the camps. The film provoked wrath in Ljubuški and I was physically attacked. The Court in Siroki Brijeg sentenced my attacker, Vera Dedic, to three months’ probation and 600 KM fine,” said Galić. (Source: media.ba)

 

After all the problems which followed the film screening and the death of Štefice Galić’s husband, the life of this family completely changed. They left their home in Ljubuški and now are also unable to sell it.


"We closed the door, we shut down the company in which almost no one has entered since 1990, and materially we fell to our knees. I was picking strawberries in Italy and cleaning staircases; I worked various jobs in Medjugorje and like that managed to survive with my children. It is hard to live in such an environment, among hypocritical people who know it all and who might pat you on your back when no one else can see them, and say, ‘Well done, you're right, but why don’t you keep quiet?’ On the other hand, our portal has conviction, a message of anti-fascism, it promotes a tolerant society, democratic values and otherness as such. Our columnists and colleagues are from all over the former Yugoslavia. In their writings they critically speak out about all of the cultural-political events, corruption and all that is happening. I believe that through criticism something can be fixed, or attempt to make it better." 

For the Zurnal.ba portal, Štefica said that the imminent threat of physical assault has been delayed due to wide publicity and support she has received from organizations and individuals. However, despite all of the difficulties, she recognizes that she is in a precarious financial situation. However, she will not give up on her ideas. 


"I am still paying back a loan that I took out to pay for my husband’s chemotherapy treatment; this loan is for 417 KM, and my pension is 320 KM. My children are always helping me, but they are not themselves financially secure. I am still ready to chop wood and work, and my children and I will work and as long as I am healthy, I will not be hungry. I do not need any work or anything that they give me or to have police protection such as it is, from these who are attacking me. But, it is truly hard to be alone, lonely, Don Quixote. I really am not afraid of anyone and I will not give up for a second from my convictions even at the cost of my life," said Galic. (Source: media.ba) The full interview can be read following this link: http://www.media.ba/bs/magazin-novinarstvo/ne-drze-nas-vise-u-strahu-drze-nas-na-nisanu

Numerous journalists and university professors spoke at the panel on media freedom. The panelists pointed out that the attacks on journalists are a serious problem in BiH and that they are the symptoms of a sick society. "The prevailing system of values in the society in which we live, meaning the society that was created by the dissolution of Yugoslavia, is such that free speech is an exception and not the rule. However, journalists and all people who write should not give up because the point of violence is to make the victims give up,” said Frljic. Among others, the panel speakers included: Nedžad Ibrahimović, Jasmin Hadžiahmetović, Adis Šušnjar, Semir Drljević Lovac, Emir Suljagić, Vera Soldo, Emil Karamatić, Husein Oručević, Faruk Kajtaz and Eldin Karić.

 

 

 

 

                                                                                                                                                   Article © 2015-2017 by Jelena Paunović  

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Jelena Paunović is a journalist and animal welfare activist in Sarajevo. You can find out more about her work at: www.journalistsforanimals.wordpress.com

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