Sarajevo Open Centre is in the second year of the realization of the Matra program sponsored by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which aims to increase the amount of professional reporting on the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex (LGBTI) individuals and their rights. The goal of the everyday work with the media houses and individual journalists was to raise awareness about the presence of LGBTI individuals in our society and the issues they face, but also to work on bettering the quality of reporting, so that less of it are stereotypical and sensationalist depictions of LGBTI persons. The media is one of the key actors to bring about social change.
Through our analysis of the media in previous years we reached a conclusion that even the media which are open to reporting on LGBTI topics are faced with lack of information which leads to frequent mistakes and poor quality reporting. For this reason continuous work with the media can help reduce the unprofessional, unverified and unethical reporting.
During the first year of this project we started working with four online portals. In our daily communications we shared information and educational materials, to contribute to better understanding of rights and everyday life of lesbians, gay, bisexual, trans* and intersex persons in BiH.
Maja Isović, a journalist from Buka.com portal from Banja Luka reflected on the first year of our cooperation:
In our work on BUKA portal we try to present our readers with different ways of thinking that don’t fall under the traditional patterns. We try to break stereotypes about the LGBT population in our texts, because we consider that the minorities in the society we live in get a better status. The cooperation with the Sarajevo Open Centre helped us to better understand the topics we are writing about and to have a better grasp of the issues the LGBT population faces.
Anamarija Jelonjić, a journalist from Bljesak.info portal which works on improving the understanding of the LGBT issues in Mostar, and generally in Herzegovina, stated that this kind of cooperation means that Bljesak.info is expanding our horizons, but also our readership – we are gaining more readers who are interested in human rights and also LGBT rights.
She considers that these types of articles, especially more intimate profiles are a way to sensitize the public and shape their perception of LGBT persons. She found the criticism given by the project leader Lejla Huremovic constructive and the information provided useful, especially to the journalists, because they themselves weren’t particularly informed on some legal topics.
During the first year of the project we had an opportunity to extend our ongoing cooperation with Radiosarajevo.co.ba and we could aid the journalists’ professional growth in terms of LGBT rights.
Vesna Andree-Zaimović, the editor of the portal stated: We want to emphasize that thorough insight on the attitude the government institutions have towards LGBTIQ persons and our continuous communication with the SOC project leader Lejla Huremović, contributed to better understanding of this topic and our journalists’ betterment. The comments we received during the writing of our articles have were seen by us as guidelines for better-quality reporting on this topic. Together with our colleague from SOC we could witness the poor knowledge of the LGBTIQ topics and the still fairly low level of tolerance towards the persons belonging to these groups. For an example, some of the correspondents we contacted did not want their names to be known. Further, some of the experts were also not using adequate language and were using terms which are no longer used in official communication around the world (for an example: hermaphrodites).
In the everyday battle to produce as many short news as possible and to generate as many clicks, which has become the reality of online reporting, the media often ignore the marginalized groups in society and they only give these stories space when an incident occurs, rarely do they decide to write more detailed texts.
Amer Behtijar a journlist at tačno.net, also reflected on this: The work on this project helped us see how frequently we overlooked the important topics. Although we follow the issues that the LGBT population faces we have to recognize that that isn’t enough. Like in the case of Mahir, juvenile violence only became an issue when we were faced with a dead child. This grant helped us to dedicate ourselves more to this problem.
Sarajevo Open Centre would like to take this opportunity to thank the journalists of 6yka.com, bljesak.info, radiosarajevo.ba and tačno.net on the openness and professionalism they demonstrated and we hope that they will continue to report on LGBT topics in a professional and ethical manner.
We will continue our work with the media and in the second year of the Matra project supported by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands in order to provide adequate, verified and politically-relevant information on LGBT rights.
Articles published as a part of this project: