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12 April 2012

Travnik – Bigger Transparency of Judicial Institutions

Representatives of BIRN, the Association of Court Reporters and Association of Prosecutors of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina held a meeting with judicial institutions of the Central Bosnia Canton and media from that area on March 28.

The meeting discussed “Transparency of Judiciary and Responsibility of the Media” with the aim of improving cooperation between the media and judicial authorities so the public could get timely and objective information.

A few recommendations for improving the cooperation were made. Both judicial institutions and the media agreed with them.

One of the recommendations says that representatives of the Cantonal Prosecution in Travnik should become more open towards the public by sending information of journalists even if journalists have not requested such information from them. For instance, they should send announcements or, when need be, hold press conferences.

Also, the participants agreed that spokespersons of judicial institutions should work after the working hours, which means that they should be available and provide information if requested by the media.

The meeting participants agreed that, with the aim of achieving a timely and objective reporting, it was necessary to build trust between representatives of judicial institutions and the media. This means that, in case it is not possible to give an answer to a certain question immediately, journalist should be patient and wait. This specifically relates to current issues. For instance, when somebody is arrested and being questioned by prosecutor, it is not possible to say when the prosecutor will request custody.

Representatives of judiciary and the media consider that the use of legal terms in public announcements and statements should be avoided to the extent possible, so the content would be understandable to citizens.

The meeting participants discussed the anonymization of indictments and verdicts, as per the recommendations of the Agency for Protection of Personal Data. They concluded that the anonymization instructions were confusing and that judicial institutions should specify what should be anonymized and how.

“It is absurd to anonymize all first and last names mentioned in indictments, as well as towns and institutions,” said prosecutor Slavo Lekic of the Federal Prosecution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding that mentioning the first and last name of an indictee was not an obstacle for prosecutors.

The Agency for Protection of Personal Data of Bosnia and Herzegovina submitted its opinion about anonymization of indictments, which are published on prosecution's web pages.

The meeting in Travnik was one of a series of meetings organized by BIRN and the Association of Prosecutors of FBiH with the aim of improving the cooperation between judicial institutions and the media. Meetings on “Transparency of Judiciary and Responsibility of the Media” were previously also held in Banja Luka and Doboj.

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