Bosnia and Herzegovina: Statement by the Spokesperson Peter Stano on the vote in Republika Srpska

The EU regrets that the RS National Assembly today voted in favour of amendments to the Republika Srpska criminal code reintroducing criminal penalties for defamation. These legislative changes would impose unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions on independent media and civil society.

The European Council granted candidate status to Bosnia and Herzegovina in December 2022. Candidate status comes with high expectations. In its recommendation for granting candidate status, the Commission has defined steps that Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to address. One of these was strengthening freedom of expression and freedom of the media.

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.

If the law is finally adopted, it will severely impact the environment for civil society (key priority 11) and the freedom of expression and of the media (key priority 12) in Republika Srpska. It will mean a regrettable and undeniable major step backwards in the protection of fundamental rights.

The EU urges the Republika Srpska entity to withdraw the amendments and to ensure full protection of freedom of expression and of the media.

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

The EU expects all authorities to work constructively to address the 14 key priorities, for the benefit of all citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.