Look, there’s EU on TV! (Bosnia and Herzegovina’s media coverage)

Posted on 24. September 2012

by Adnan Rahimic

1-adnan-rahimicWhen talking about media coverage and why it is important to the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it is important to see the historical picture of this area. Why? Because the interest for the Balkan Peninsula was always present in the world. And I am not talking just about media. It comes from the variety of events that happened and from the results that left marks that lasted (and still last) through time. Ancient events produced cultural myths that evolved over time, especially paying attention to the conflicts that started many Balkan wars, and eventually led to the “modern” (and hopefully last) conflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina. All of these events have left a significant historical mark on this land, which attracts not only tourists, but economical and political thinkers to give the praised opinions and longing to learn more about “windy area of the Balkans”.

Throughout the history, great powers have intervened in the Balkans, from Illyria and Roman Empire, Ottoman Empire, influence of Austro-Hungarian kingdom, and finally influence of great Western powers and Yugoslavian era. All these great powers left the region economically powerless for local politicians to sort out as best they could afterwards (which was usually not very well).

Being a country that is still not a part of European Union, there is quite greater media coverage and promotion of EU in B&H’s media. Television, radio, press, internet, social groups, indoor and outdoor promotional activities are tools for daily updates on issues in European Union, and the accession conditions that Bosnia and Herzegovina (fails) need to accomplish in order to enter European family. Having a strong world news media, such as Aljazeera Balkans in Sarajevo, which is focused on the news from region and European Union, makes people daily informed and introduced about the road we need to take if we want to be a part of European family. With specialized shows that are focused with European activities, people do tend to understand more about the path that EU provides for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Other than the mentioned Aljazeera Balkans, there is also Radio Free Europe which does the best possible promotion of EU processes on weekly broadcasting. In the radio programme “Gates of Europe” they reflect stories about young people about EU integration issues.

Public media, funded by state, do give generally objective points of view for European issues, followed with analytical approach to European affairs. European issues are frequently discussed in programmes like news as well as in a number of other programmes with political character. Private media give its fair share of minutes to the political aspects from EU, but are quite weak in its coverage of European affairs.

European Union has its strong presence in Bosnia and Herzegovina through many institutions such as Office of the High Representative, Delegation of EU, Direction for European Integration, and so on. It is very active in promotion of the EU, through media and non-media coverage. It gave itself a task to create the stable social and political structure, as well as functional economy. As given in its media “EU promotional materials” the main road for B&H joining the EU is the Stabilization and Association Process supported by the EC delegation and financial investments in assistance programmes.

After signing the SAP, the promotion of EU has begun and ever since, media did take a large part in promotion. Different TV and radio shows with subjects of European issues were presented to the people. Indoor and outdoor promotion spread around the country, and for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina, European Union always presented as something that was untouchable; very far away from us, where there are limits on who can enter. The borders were these huge walls and that are very hard to pass by. If you want to be a part of it, you have to respect the rules. And rules are there to be followed. If you behave, you can enter, if not, then you are on the black list. And that is the message that media provided (and still do) though variety of TV, radio and press that cover economical and political issues. People are dissatisfied with domestic economical and political issues, especially on slow reforms that take years and years to be incorporated in the system. They do tend to think that once in EU, the problems will be far away. Of course, with the different nationalities and its political parties, the perspectives on these issues are nationally shaped, which means that every nation (with its own medias) has its own vision of accession to EU.

Today, Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the first countries in the world by the number of political parties. Daily, they give speech about unity, better future for the country, jobs, EU accession. It is rather interesting that, watching these presumably “unified future plans” for the country, we have hundreds of different political parties. This country needs strong hand, probably as a part of inherited custom of being in a union before. Twenty years of independence showed that it is not possible to cope with problems by ourselves and that this country needs partners and needs to be involved in better planning and communication. This is where the EU steps in. European Union is far away of dictatorship that this country is used of, but it does give conditions that are needed to be followed in order to be a part of this mighty family. All mentioned above is a reason while people do tend to follow any media coverage that has keywords: EU, Bosnia and Herzegovina, accession, deadlines … these keywords are showing them signs for, perhaps, better future. Crisis and other problems that EU is facing nowadays do not scare BH people in their wishing to be part of this family. For them, being in the European Union and sharing the problems is better than being left outside, on the black list.