Role of a press council in promoting responsible journalism

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International human rights law plays a crucial role in preventing the escalation of hate speech through two clauses. Article 20 (2) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, explicitly maintains that any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred inciting to discrimination, hostility or violence is to be prohibited by law. Article 19 (3) of both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in addition, stipulates that the right to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds through any media and regardless of frontiers carries special duties and responsibilities and therefore may be subject to certain restrictions.

A press council stands for good, responsible and reliable journalism. It promotes an ethical code for journalists and investigates complaints about a breach of this code. When abiding to a press council, media professionals declare their dedication to the values of objectivity, plurality and democracy.

UNESCO is currently leading a project in South East Europe and Turkey further promote freedom of expression and freedom of information out of the strengthening of media self-regulation mechanisms such as press councils.

Through this project, UNESCO supports some of the activities of the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina and builds on its experience for mentoring activities in the region. This press council is indeed the oldest media self-regulatory body in South East Europe. Created in 2000 by international organizations and the country’s associations of journalists, it was reestablished in 2006 by the owners of the country’s 10 largest media companies. In 2010, the Press Council broadened its mandate to adapt to the digital era and to apply journalistic ethical standards also to online media.

Addressing hate speech is a crucial issue for a multiethnic society such as Bosnia and Herzegovina. As the effects of such speech have often been amplified by media, the Press Council in Bosnia and Herzegovina has focused on promoting tolerance and respect in both online and offline media.

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