April 13. 2024. 5:22

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EU slams Bosnian Serb defamation law as ‘step in wrong direction’

The EU criticised the Bosnian Serb amended criminal code introducing criminal penalties for defamation, saying it was a “step in the wrong direction” that could threaten fundamental rights and undermine the country’s EU membership hopes.

The parliament of Republika Srpska adopted on Thursday the draft of the amended code, which introduces penalties of up to 60,000 KM (€30,500) for defamation. It will now face a two-month public consultation and then be put to a final vote. Most penalties are related to defamation in the media.

The EU’s diplomatic arm, the EEAS, voiced regret in a statement on Thursday evening, saying the changes would “impose unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on independent media and civil society”.

“Today’s decision is a clear step in the wrong direction and has a chilling effect on media freedom in Republika Srpska. It also puts into question the strategic commitment of the ruling parties in Republika Srpska to Bosnia and Herzegovina’s accession to the European Union.”

The EU urged the RS authorities to withdraw the amendments, stressing that the law would “severely impact the environment for civil society and the freedom of expression and of the media”. Both are priorities the EU set for Bosnia to address after it granted the country candidate status last December.

“Fulfilling the key priorities set out in the Commission Opinion is a precondition for Bosnia and Herzegovina to open EU accession negotiations,” the statement added.

Following the 1992-1995 war, Bosnia and Herzegovina was divided into two highly autonomous entities, the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, with a weak central government in Sarajevo.

Bosnian Serb leaders have been increasingly defiant of the central authorities in recent years and their President Milorad Dodik, who is keen to maintain closer ties with Serbia and Russia, has repeatedly threatened to oversee their secession from Bosnia.

(Zoran Radosavljević | EURACTIV.com)