While the papers on hate speech on the Internet were being collected for this issue of Public Law Volumes, a showdown on social networks occurred. Diana Pelidija, a teacher in a Sarajevo Elementary School, found herself in the spotlight after Avaz daily released an article about a photo of her wearing šajkača, which she posted on her Facebook profile. The Internet portals spread the word very quickly, and soon afterward the media published the comments Dijana Pelidija wrote on her Facebook profile such as “Bosniaks being descendants of Serbs”, based on which Avaz journalist accused her of “spreading the idea of Great Serbia”. This triggered an avalanche of comments on social networks and portals that ranged from offensive, vulgar to hate speech and incitement to violence: she was called names such as “četnikuša” spreading “Serbian fascism”, “a četnik whore”; her national identity was discussed with lots of insults and curses, suggesting that “such a person should not be teaching children”, and that she should be fired from the job. In her defence, Pelidija tried to explain that both the FB statuses and comments were taken out of context, and that they represented her ironic reaction to social phenomena, and that they could not be understood unless viewed in the context in which they were written, but to no avail. On the contrary, the Minister of Education also came forward to announce that she would investigate “the case” and take action “if so permitted by law”, while the Minister of Labour and Social Policy concluded that Pelidija - if the FB posts were indeed hers - does not belong to schools.
This case, once again, demonstrated the reluctance or unwillingness of the Internet media to prevent lynching through portals and social networks. It demonstrates the intention of certain media outlets to encourage such lynching by tendentious reporting on the issues they attribute to the public interest. The question of what ideology the educators and other public officials promote may, of course, be a matter of public interest. However, the media have not only the obligation to inform the public about such issues but also the duty to verify the information, that is, not to publish such information in a way that leads to the conclusion that the journalist wants.
Reports show a growing trend of violence against the media and journalists in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, driven by financial interests, the media also act unprofessionally, imparting the half-truths and painting a target on someone’s back. They resort to sensationalist headlines that often have nothing to do with the text, knowing that many readers will not read beyond the headline, to get “clicks”, and thus make money. In doing so, they do nothing to effectively prevent and disable hate speech in the comments, thus contributing to a further deterioration of communication in online space. However, the more concerning is the inadequate response of the competent authorities, i.e. the failure to investigate and prosecute such cases appropriately. In the particular case, Pelidija reported the case to the police, but she was told that there were no physical threats made, and “even if there were any, it would be very difficult to prove them”.
Persons who are assaulted and publicly abused are left to themselves, as the competent authorities do not know how to react or simply do not want to find a way to react and provide protection even within the inadequate legal framework. An exception is the action of the Communications Regulatory Agency, which takes measures within its jurisdiction and sanctions audio-visual media, among other things, for hate speech (e. g. they recently imposed a 6,000 BAM fine to FTV).
The analyses in this issue focus on legal and judicial responses to hate speech. The topic is, therefore, more than important. Although the focus is mainly on sanctioning hate speech, the analyses also point to the need for other measures to be taken so that freedom of expression is not compromised solely by repressive measures.