The Association of BH Journalists (the BHJ in the following text) is a non-political, nonprofit organisation aimed at bringing together individual journalists, freelance licensed journalists, Journalism students and other media employees (photo-reporters, readers, cameramen, proofreaders...), anyone whose basic profession is journalism. The BHJ was founded in 2004 as an umbrella association of journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina with activities covering the entire territory of the country. It has been established that the BHJ’s key goals are: (a) protecting and improving the freedom, rights and responsibilities of journalists, as well as protecting the reputation and dignity of the profession of journalism and (b) improving the public’s basic, constitutional right to be informed about events in the society, as well as supporting each person’s right to freedom of opinion, expression and access to the media.
The BHJ’s mission is: The BH Journalists Association is a multiethnic association working on the protection of journalists' rights, improvement of professional standards and responsibilities. It also strives to encourage the development of a democratic environment necessary for the proper work of the media in BIH and the world.
The BHJ’s vision is: In the next three years, BHN is planning to become leading association of journalists with strong capacities for protection of statute and social rights of journalists. It also plans to improve journalist's skills and knowledge. By having our own business facilities and by ensuring conditions for self-sustainable financial policy, we are planning to become the centre of gathering of media employees, who will comply with values of journalist's profession and democratic society.
Fundamental and business BHJ ´s aims:
In its activities, BHJ is based on fundamental human rights for freedom of speech and access to information, which have its base in local and international documents. In that context, BHN has found its reason for existence:
To protect and improve freedom, rights and responsibilities of journalists, as well as to protect reputation and dignity of journalist’s profession.
To improve basic, constitutional right that public is informed about events in society, as well as to encourage right of each person for freedom of opinion, expression and access to media.
In accordance with its mission and main goal, the BHJ works on the following:
Gathers professional and independent journalists and other media employees into one association
Increases the space for public speech and democratisation of the society
Protects labour and human rights of journalists, protects the independent media and journalists exposed to pressures
Fights monopoly and manipulation of the media and abuse by individuals within and outside the media
Develops mutual cooperation among professional journalists as individuals and among editorial staffs of independent media
Cooperates with similar associations in the country and worldwide
Organizes campaigns for the promotion of media freedoms and improvement of technical and financial conditions for the development of the freedom of expression and thought
Exchanges information aimed at better informing the public
Issues press releases and reactions
Publishes work of interest to the BHJ
Organises lectures, public meetings and discussions
Organises trainings of BHJ members
The BHJ has developed the following primary services at the disposal of its members:
(1) Free legal and professional assistance - protection of journalists and the media in cases of physical, political, economic and other pressures, as well as cases of violations of journalists’ rights and freedom of expression. Counsellors and lawyers are summoned in legal cases and other disputes where journalists and the media are involved: all services are available for BHJ members through the use of the Free Media Help Line, which operates under the auspices of the Association;
(2) Specialized and thematic trainings - organisation of in-house trainings, workshops and seminars to develop and improve the knowledge and skills of journalists and students in the areas of journalists’ rights, freedom of expression, ethical and professional standards, the Anti-Defamation Law and the Freedom of Access to Information Law;
(3) Social servicesand protection– providing expert and legal assistance in cases of violations of journalists’ labour rights, improving Collective Agreements for journalists and their working conditions, helping with the organisation of the Labour Union, offering a possibility for regulating health and pension insurance and urgent financial support in cases of sudden illness or termination of employment (under the BHJ Solidarity Fund);
(4) Discounts and other services – providing international press cards, discounts for bus, air, and railway transport in BIH and the world
(5) Advocacy and lobbying - taking an active part in the drafting, passing and implementation of laws, rules and regulations pertaining to the work of journalists and the media in BIH, organizing different kinds of conferences, seminars and workshops, participating in different local and international meetings, as well as in the bodies of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and their congresses
The BHJ offers three kinds of memberships: full membership – for journalists and other media employees whose main profession is journalism; associate membership – for students of Journalism who have started working in the media as volunteers or associates and honorary membership – for journalists who started working in PR, marketing, media management or other media-related activities and are no longer working actively in journalism, but still want to be members of the BHJ. Those three categories have equal members’ rights, as they all take part in the activities of the BHJ Assembly, given that only full members can be appointed to managing, executive and administrative bodies of the BHJ.
The BHJ currently has 720 members from all kinds of media (print, radio and TV, news agencies and on-line media), coming from all parts of BiH, representing all ethnicities and various age groups. BHJ members are journalists of Oslobođenje, EuroBlic, Dnevni Avaz, Nezavisne novine, Dnevni list...daily newspapers in BiH, Dani, Start and Slobodna Bosna magazines, public radio and TV services: RTVFBiH, BHRT, RT RS, private TV stations: OBN, PINK, ATV, RTV Mostar and BH TV, RTV Zenica, RTV Bihać, a great number of local and regional radio stations, news agencies Onasa and Fena, online media (Sarajevo X portal, Radio Sarajevo, Frontal); Journalism students from Sarajevo, Tuzla, Mostar...are also members (the complete list ofBHJ members, together with the names of the media they work for is available at www.bhnovinari.ba
The Governance Structure
The BHJ is a citizens’ association headed by a Board of Managers and an Executive Board. It is managed by the Association’s President, Vice-President and Secretary General, who has an executive-administrative role. When choosing the key people in the BHJ, our major goal was to choose individuals who are well-regarded as journalists in the entire territory of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with a reputation for dedication to the interests of journalism as a profession.
The BHJ has well-developed organizational and management structures and clear decision-making rules. Rules regarding the management of the BHJ are set forth in its Statute, the document upon which the association was established and registered. It specifies its managing bodies and organisational structure and the way decisions are made. Along with the statute, the BHJ has developed a special set of rules and procedures for the work of its managing and executive bodies such as: Procedures for the Operation of the BHJ, Administrative – Financial Procedures, Procedures Regulating the Work of Volunteers, Procedures Regulating Cooperation with Donors, Rules for Organizing Trainings, Procedures for Recruiting New BHJ Members...Also, the BHJ has Terms of References for members of the management bodies, a detailed job and task description for all the positions in the Secretariat, as well as a systematization of jobs within the Secretariat.
The highest body of the Association is the Assembly of 51 members – elected on the principle of delegation, in accordance with the number of members of the Association per geographic area. The Assembly convenes at least once per year. The Assembly elects the President, Members of the Board of Managers and the Journalists Council of Honour, adopts the plan of activities and the financial plan, as well as other decisions of interest for the members...The Board of Managers consists of 15 members. Its work is managed by the Chairperson of the Board. The Board is in charge of the preparation of the Assembly and implementing the decisions adopted at the Assembly, managing the work of the Association in the period between two sessions of the Assembly, preparing the plan of activities and the financial plan. We have also elected an Executive Board as an operative body of the BHJ which is able to promptly solve problems that might arise and conduct other needed activities for the BHJ. The BHJ Executive Board has 5 members. The Journalists’ Council of Honour consists of 5 members and decides on issues related to the adherence to the Statute, Code of Ethics and professional journalist standards.
In terms of its organizational structure, the BHJ has Jornalists’ clubs in five towns in BiH functioning as the BHJ’s field offices. And finaly, the BHJ’s Secretatiat, the administrative and operational body, is situated in our Sarajevo Office.
Main results /efforts
Since its inception, the BHJ has developed into an important institution in the area of protection of journalists’ rights and the freedom of public speech. With a series of public appearances and reactions, it has demonstrated its willingness to promote and improve professional standards in BIH journalism and to oppose all attempts at political pressure and restriction of media freedoms. The following points offer a review of the main activities the BHJ has conducted in the past few years:
(1)BHJ provided different service in space of protection of freedom of expression and media independency. Through Free Media Help Line service, it offers a free-of-charge legal and professional assistance for the protection of journalists and the media in cases of physical, political, economic and other pressures, cases of violations of journalists’ rights and the freedom of expression. It also provides services of lawyers in legal cases and other disputes, where journalists and the media are involved. The FHML includes a team for expert and legal aid to journalists, which consists of lawyers, media and human rights experts. This service is available to journalists and the media 24 hours per day. Since 2004, the FHML has helped journalists and the media in nearly 300 different cases of violations of media freedoms and rights through various kinds of pressures. They have also defended journalists in trials that were motivated by their work (articles, investigative reporting stories, TV reports and analysis of corruption, criminal activities....)
(2) As part of our specialized thematic trainings, the BHJ has organized several in house trainings, workshops and seminars in order to develop and improve the knowledge and skills of journalists and students in the area of journalists’ rights, freedom of expression, ethical and professional standards, the Anti-Defamation Law and the Freedom of Access to Information Law. The BHJ has signed two long-term agreements with Schools of Journalism in Banja Luka and Sarajevo offering cooperation in the practical education of journalists on these issues. Also, the BHJ has conducted thematic trainings of journalists and editors on: reporting during the election period, presentation of women in the media and other relevant gender issues, reporting about tourism and the environment, reporting in the local community…We have created a network of journalist lecturers, BHJ members with a long-term experience in journalism, as well as university professors from the Schools of Journalism, media and legal experts...they all comprise the BHJ Team for additional education and practice for BHJ members and other journalists. Approximately, 700 journalists and Journalism students have benefitted from our educational programs in the past 5 years.
(3) The BHJ is the only association in BIH offering services for social protection of freelance journalists and media employees by providing expert and legal assistance in cases of violations of journalists' labour rights, improving Collective Agreements for journalists and their working conditions, helping with the organisation of the Labour Union, offering a possibility for regulating health and pension insurance and urgent financial support in cases of sudden illness or termination of employment (under BHJ Solidarity Fund). Through the BHJ, freelance journalists can pay for their health insurance. The BHJ has published a handbook on labour rights of media employees with 100 different answers on institutional and legal mechanisms for the protection of labour rights.
(4)The BHJ provided different discounts and services for its members such as: international press cards (by the IFJ, as the BHJ is a full member of the International Federation of Journalists), discounts for bus transportation (the BHJ has had 5 discount agreements with bus companies), railroad transportation with two railway companies… The BHJ was included in the agreement which allowed a visa-free access for some BIH citizens to EU countries. The BHJ provided free visas for its members in the period between 2008 and the end of 2010.
(5) On several occasions, the BHJ did media monitoring in BIH on different issues: the presentation of women in the media, the presentation of ethnic minorities and vulnerable groups in the BIH print media and the pre–election period for the 2010 elections. The BHJ organised these for the development of their own different activities and with the aim of improving journalists’ skills and knowledge and furthering the existing media legislation and professional roles.
(6) The BHJ played an active role in drafting, passing and implementation of laws, rules and regulations pertaining to the work of journalists and the media in BIH such as: the passing and implementation of the Anti-Defamation Law, the Freedom of Access to Information Law and the Law on Public Broadcasting. In cooperation with the Press Council, the BHJ drafted and adopted changes to the Press Code regarding gender equality and media presentation of sexual minorities; the BHJ has organized different kinds of conferences, seminars and workshops, has participated in different local and international meetings and has been part of the bodies and congresses within the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).
In the implementation of these activities and actions, the BHJ cooperates closely with other media organizations (the CRA, the Press Council, the Media Centre, the Media Plan Institute, the Ombudsman for the media...) and various civil society organizations, through joint actions aimed at the improvement of professional and ethical standards, as well as the media working environment.