"The current Public Broadcasting System law in Bosnia and Herzegovina provides a mechanism to correct possible professional mistakes of a public broadcaster," said Haraszti at the end of a three-day visit to the country, during which he assessed the media situation in connection with the recent Republic of Srpska (RS) Government boycott of the public broadcaster BHT-1.
"But Government officials also need to use the legal complaints mechanism - which also helps to promote journalistic standards - to settle their grievances, and not send a message of arbitrary tampering with individual parts of the media system."
The OSCE Representative visited Sarajevo and Banja Luka, and met with Christian Schwarz-Schilling, the High Representative and EU Special Representative in BiH, Nikola Spiric, Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers, Milorad Dodik, RS Prime Minister, Igor Radojcic, President of RS National Assembly, members of the Communications Regulatory Agency, the Press Council, the Association of Electronic Media, the Association of BiH Journalists and the Association of Young Journalists in RS, as well as Mehmed Agovic, the new BHRT Director General, and Zeljko Kopanja, Editor-in-Chief of Nezavisne Novine.
"I am glad that all the senior government officials we met with were convinced that what happened was an isolated incident, one that would not crystallize into a governmental form of behavior in the future," said Haraszti.
He added that denying access to a public broadcaster, even for a moment, comprised the first step towards censorship. It represented a very precarious moment in the edifice of media freedom.
"A public broadcaster should not be exposed to any sort of political pressure and limitation to media freedom," added Haraszti. "It has to fulfill its role, vital in a democratic society, to inform all citizens regardless of their social, political or other affiliations, in a timely and impartial manner."
The visit was made at the invitation of Dr. Schwarz-Schilling and Ambassador Douglas Davidson, the Head of the OSCE Mission, and followed a dispute which culminated when BHT-1 journalists were denied access to a press conference by RS President Milan Jelic on 17 January.