(17 May 2023) Following discussion in the EPSU Constituency meeting for Central Europe and Western Balkan, we sent a letter to the government of the republic of Srpska to withdraw amendments to the criminal code. These proposed amendments to article 208 in effect create a defamation law. This law will have a negative impact on the freedom of expression of many in the Republic of Srpska. Criticising governments and government decisions is part of the democratic process. It should not be stifled with threats of defamation lawsuits. EPSU attaches great importance to good public administrations. That includes transparency and accountability. Politicians should not be afraid of critique and of critical journalists, trade unionists and others. They have often revealed corruption, mismanagement and so on. They helped to improve governance, decision-making processes, the good use of public funds and this ultimately benefits the people. The law could be used against trade unionists that criticise the government. Undermining freedom of speech and freedom of expression undermines the realisation of other human rights and including trade union rights.
A broad range of organisations including the European Commission have condemned the amendments to the criminal code for example the European Commission https://www.eeas.europa.eu/eeas/bosnia-and-herzegovina-statement-spokesperson-defamation-law-republika-srpska_en?channel=eeas_press_alerts&date=2023-03-23&newsid=0&langid=en&source=mail
Dejan Lučka, of the Banja Luka Centre for such Human Rights put the critique on the amendments to article 208 of several people such as the UN Special rapporteur on Freedom of expression/ speech and organisations including the Council of Europe convincingly together in this overview: https://www.etrafika.net/drustvo/88573/brief-explanation-and-analysis-amendments-to-the-criminal-code-of-republika-srpska/
The organisation article 19 which defends Freedom of expression which is protected under international law (Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) put together this critique Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Decriminalise defamation - ARTICLE 19