Bosnian media reports on terrorism spread fear
Affected Countries: bosnia-and-herzegovina;
When some old weapons were found in a rundown, abandoned house not far from a mosque in Matuzici in the Doboj Jug municipality in the summer of 2018, some media outlets in the country jumped to sensationalist conclusions even before the police investigation was complete.
The police investigation concluded that the weapons were actually left over from the 1990s war and were not associated with terrorism or radical Islamists. However, media reports had already hyped up the incident, using quotes from people they described as security experts to suggest that an armed attack on Republika Srpska was being prepared.
One of those who gave his opinion was a pundit called Dzevad Galijasevic. Media outlets that fact-checking website Raskrinkavanje classifies as most inclined to sensationalism when reporting on terrorism often quote Galijasevic as an expert on security.
“The notion of terrorism or security experts in the way they’re being used by the media has been rendered meaningless, because there are people who are actually dealing with that, people who are professionals, and then you have people like Dzevad Galijasevic, who simply appeared and began talking about the issue,” argued Tijana Cvjeticanin of Raskrinkavanje.
Galijasevic told BIRN that he considers himself an alternative source of information about terrorism and that he has never asked media to describe him as an expert.
“They ask me about something on the fly – ask me for an analytical comment – they usually catch me in my car, in class or somewhere else, and ask me to give a statement, an opinion. I have better things to do than to check what they make out of it, whether will use it in a sensationalist manner or not,” Galijasevic said.
Concerns have been raised that the story from Matuzici is just one in a series of examples of reports about alleged terrorism that have been exaggerated.
Sensationalist reporting about terrorism spreads fear and politicises the phenomenon of violent extremism, BIRN was told by several analysts.
The dean of the Faculty of Political Sciences at Sarajevo University, Sead Turcalo, says that both journalists and their ‘expert’ interviewees bear responsibility, but the responsibility of the so-called experts is greater because they are aware that they “very often know absolutely nothing about the subject”.
Turcalo argued that journalists must also bear in mind the risk that their reports might “cause consequences for society and lead to the eventual politicisation of the entire story or, when we speak about smaller communities, a polarisation that might be negative in the short- and long-term”.
Muhamed Jusic, spokesperson for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Islamic Community, the official body representing the country’s Muslims, declared that “fear simply sells”.
“Some media outlets are simply not interested in facts, they are not interested in what we in journalism call the other side of the story. They have an agenda,” Jusic told BIRN.
“You can repeat a number of times the exact number of people who have left Bosnia and Herzegovina to participate in war [in the Middle East], the number of women and children. People who believe that thousands of people have left [Bosnia to join Islamic State] will continue to believe it,” he added.
Vlado Azinovic, a professor at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Sarajevo, pointed out however that sensationalism is “a common characteristic of media globally”.
“Headlines of this kind, saying ‘500 Bosnian citizens held in detention in Syria’, make you click on the story link, and make you buy newspapers if the story is not published on the internet – bombastic headlines which are most often followed by completely unprofessional articles, and I am not talking about the content now, but the elementary professional rules, such as consulting at least two sources,” Azinovic said.
Attacks that have been officially classified as terrorism are rare in Bosnia and Herzegovina; the most recent were two separate incidents in 2015, when one gunman shot two army officers in Sarajevo and another killed two police officers in Zvornik. The one before that was in 2011, when a man opened fire at the US embassy in Sarajevo, injuring one person. There have also been several trials of people accused of plotting attacks.
Meanwhile, some 240 men and women went from Bosnia and Herzegovina to Syria to join ISIS. The Bosnian state court has so far sentenced 25 men to a total of 47 years and two months in prison for either going to fight in Syria, attempting to go there, or recruiting others to do so.
Source: Balkan Insight