In the seventh analysis of media coverage of LGBTI topics, which is published annually by the Sarajevo Open Center, we devote the following section to the texts that show in paradigmatic way the relation of the media to the three great topics of everyday life – politics, culture and activism.
The first part gives an overview of media reports related to Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and how the fact that for the first time in this political position is a woman, who is also a lesbian, is articulated in the public through the media. The second part is related to the writings about International Queer Film Festival Merlinka in Sarajevo and how well-led promotion of the festival creates the attitude of the media towards this cultural event of “high risk”, as the police still mark it. The third part concerns with the reporting on the prohibition of marking of International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia in the public space and answering the question of who still fears the parade.
Written by: Lejla Huremović and Jasmina Čaušević
I do not need permission to walk proudly
In the analysis of media announcements during 2017, we paid special attention to reporting on the initially announced protest march called “Violence is not normal”, banning marching, and ultimately to the protest in front of the building of the Ministry of Transport of the Sarajevo Canton.
LGBTI people still rarely go out on the street and use their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of assembly and peaceful protest. It is, therefore, very interesting to observe how the state, the ruling structures, and the media look at this aspect of the struggle.
The decision to organize a protest march came as a reaction to more and more frequent violence against LGBTI people. Since Sarajevo Open Center, as a part of its activities, also has free legal and psychological support, through provision of this support we acquired information from the LGBTI community that are truly devastating and are related to domestic violence, school and street violence. Among other things, at the end of 2016, two transsexual women addressed the Sarajevo Open Center as they had experienced various forms of violence in their families and found themselves in a homeless situation. Precisely these cases were the trigger for the organizers to decide on a protest march to point out to violence that remains unrecorded and invisible.
In a call to the protest march, it said: In recent years, more and more lesbians, gay men, bisexual, transgender and intersex individuals have been victims of domestic violence or have been subjected to peer violence. Parents, sisters, brothers and other members of the family closed these people, forced them to medical treatments, threw them out of the house, continually abused, threatened and attacked them. Schools are also dangerous places for LGBTI people who are exposed to constant negative reactions by their colleagues, harassment and violence. A large number of LGBTI people were blackmailed to forcibly “come out of the closet”, the level of attacks in public places increased, as well as the number of threats and calls for hatred and violence against LGBTI activists.
During 2016 and early 2017, Sarajevo Open Center recorded over 25 cases of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity, and the reactions of the relevant institutions were either absent or inadequate.
School and the family must be the primary place of support and understanding for all their members, not the place of their suffering.
The march was announced to the Police Department “Centar” a month earlier. Since the requested route required a short stop in traffic, the PD “Centar” ordered the request to be sent to the Ministry of Transport of the Sarajevo Canton to stop the traffic, which was done. However, this Ministry ignored the calls of the organizers and demands to receive an answer. Therefore, with their administrative silence, they indirectly refused to give their consent for holding this protest march. Two days before the scheduled protest march, since the response was not received, the organizers decided to hold a press conference and announce the second meeting.
The media content analysis includes announcements from the press conference to the end of the protest meeting. From May 11th, when the press conference was held, until the end of the protest meeting, over hundred announcements related to administrative silence, cancellation of the protest march, organization of a protest meeting, reactions of the authorities as well as the support provided by certain institutions and individuals were published in the media.
Organizing such a public event, a protest, has shown that it attracts the most attention of both the media and the public. This is what is often talked about in the context of the pride parade. And what is the pride parade but a protest march, the protest, a peaceful public gathering of LGBTI people that, through history, has proven to be a very influential activist act. Thus, this protest meeting confirmed this thesis, since the protest march was reported in all media. Not only those media who regularly follow LGBTI events wrote about the protest, but also those who almost never report on the rights of LGBTI people. Never before at any event that was organized by Sarajevo Open Center was more reporters until now.
In the daily newspaper Oslobođenje on May 12th, an excellent article from an extraordinary press conference was published, detailing the reasons for canceling the protest march and scheduling protests in front of the Ministry of Transport of the Sarajevo Canton. Journalist Merima Babić presented the most important statements given at the press conference.
Furthermore, on May 12th, the Independent Information Portal slobodna-bosna.ba published a very detailed article under the title – REACTIONS OF AMBASSADORS IN BIH: Why the March Against Violence Against LGBTI Persons Was Not Approved. In the article, statements of the organizers, part of the letter sent by the ambassadors and the statement of the ombudsman are given. Below is a statement that is a reaction of ambassadors in BiH:
“We were looking forward to participating in the march against violence against LGBTI people, which was planned to be held on May 13th in the organization of the Sarajevo Open Center. Since the organizers, unfortunately, did not receive all the necessary permits in a timely manner, the march will not be able to be held as planned. We believe that it should be possible to organize these kinds of events in a country where freedom of assembly exists and which is based on the European Convention on Human Rights. We want to show our greatest solidarity with the Sarajevo Open Center and the LGBTI community in Bosnia and Herzegovina. It should be possible for people to live freely without threats to violence and regardless of their ethnicity, belief or sexuality”, it is said in the statement signed by ambassadors Anders Hagelberg, Nicola Minasi, Edward Ferguson and Lars-Gunnar Wigemark, as well as chargés d’affaires Javier Blanco and Christian Sedat.
It is interesting that the statement of Mujo Fišo, the Minister of Transport of the Sarajevo Canton, appeared only on TV stations while there was not a single text in print or online media. We can believe that this is his tactical decision to minimize his statements in the media, giving them only to certain TV stations. Thus, there is no room left to analyze the truthfulness of his statements, primarily those statements related to jeopardizing the security of traffic, economy and the operation of the public transportation company GRAS. (RTVBiH, Dnevnik at 19:00, May 13th).
Bearing in mind that in Sarajevo, at the same location where a protest march was supposed to take place, various sports and recreational events, such as cycling or half-marathons, are often held, this statement of his has no basis in the truth.
Furthermore, on May 13th, on Dnevnik at 18:30 on TV Sarajevo, the Minister declares that an attempt has been made to find a solution, but organizers did not agree to a compromise which is not true since the organizers did not receive any response until the extraordinary press conference. The answer came only after the press conference for which, we believe, media pressure is responsible. In this report, the statement of a Minister is also very problematic, saying that the organizers attended several meetings in the aforementioned Ministry and that they did not want to give up their requests. At the extraordinary press conference held on May 11th, the organizers explained that Minister Mujo Fišo, after several letters and phone calls, did not respond and no meeting was organized.
In addition, among many very good and professional posts that were published, this negative and above all sensationalist post published on May 15th on the portal poskok.info under the title: Naša Stranka is Filing a Lawsuit for the Prohibition of Gay Parade in Sarajevo – stood out. We pass on this very superficial and brief piece of news in its entirety:
The Sarajevo Open Center (SOC) had scheduled a march for gay rights. Certain permissions were required for this march, such as, for example, permission of cantonal Minister of Transport Mujo Fišo. As Minister Mujo Fišo did not grant permission for the LGTB march or, as they usually call it, the gay parade, many have decided to condemn him.
Activists Lejla Huremović, Vladana Vasić and Emina Bošnjak expressed dissatisfaction with the refusal of the relevant ministry to issue a permit to suspend the traffic while the members of the LGBT population and their friends have a “protest walk” from the Eternal flame to the building of state institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Naša stranka also stood up for the protection of homosexuals and, according to the media, announced a lawsuit against Minister Mujo Fišo who did not issue the necessary permits for holding the gay parade.
Behind this post is a negative attitude of this media. Even though they had time, given that the article was published two days after the protest, the author unfortunately did not read at least a few posts in other media before he/she wrote the article. Not only did they replace the word protest with the gay parade in a sensationalistic manner, but they also added quotation marks to the phrase protest walk, thus making it ironic. However, we are pleased that this article has remained lonely among many other positive and professional publications.
This time there was no visible tendency towards sensationalism in titles. We are passing on to you some of them, so you have a complete insight into the truly praiseworthy reporting of BiH media.
The Right to Assembly is Denied to LGBTI People in Sarajevo, radiosarajevo.ba
LGBT Protest March Cancelled. Criminal Charge Against Minister Fišo, Dnevni Avaz
Ambassadors Expressed Solidarity with the LGBT Community in BiH, dnevnik.ba
Reaction After the Cancellation of the March Against Violence Against LGBTI People in Sarajevo, fokus.ba
Administrative Silence for the walk of LGBT People, Oslobođenje
Denial of Rights of LGBTI / SOC Calls for Protests in Front of the Ministry of Transport of Sarajevo Canton, radiosarajevo.ba
REACTIONS OF AMBASSADORS IN BIH: Why the March Against Violence Against LGBTI Persons Was Not Approved, slobodna-bosna.ba
WITHOUT MARCH: Large Security Measures in Front of the Government of Sarajevo Canton During the Protest of LGBT People, slobodna-bosna.ba
Large Security Measures in Front of the Government on the Eve of the Protest, buka.com
Protest Rally Against Violence Against LGBTI People: “I Do Not Need a Permission to Walk Proudly”, avaz.ba
LGBT Protests in Sarajevo: They are Spitting Us on the Street Because We Hold Hands!, banjalukain.com
Protest due to (Deliberate) Slow Administration, dnevnik.ba
Protest Meeting of LGBTI People and Activists in Sarajevo, Increased Security Measures in Front of the Government of Sarajevo Kanton, klix.ba
LGBTI Protest Meeting Completed: There is no Returning to Silence from Today, We Quit Being Invisible, klix.ba
Protest of LGBT People in Sarajevo: Enough of Violence and Fear, N1
Protest Meeting of LGBTI People and Activists: Administrative Silence is Inadmissible, Oslobođenje.ba
Although the truthfulness of statements of Minister Fišo is questionable, we also praise informative TV shows and daily news which had enough time to cover this topic. We highlight the show on RTVBiH on Dnevnik at 19:00, lasting 3 minutes, covering all the angles of this event, including the Minister’s statement, which was a rarity.
Judging by this approach of the media, we can conclude that when the pride parade is held, precisely under that name, the media could be very good allies that will contribute to the public having a more positive than a negative attitude. Therefore, we call for the media to keep this kind of approach when reporting, because it is very important that they have a clear position when it comes to the fight for human rights, in this case fighting for the rights of LGBTI people.
The general impression we can give after analyzing all posts is positive. The vast majority of the media reported correctly and professionally, passing on the original statements of speakers that were dominating the posts. The protest was covered from several angles, giving space to all parties. Thus, in some of the posts, we have a statement from Minister Mujo Fišo, the position of the Institution of Human Rights Ombudsman of BiH, the support from the ambassadors of a large number of countries, and the statements of participants of protests, including some of the famous figures, such as director Srđan Vuletić or writer Lamija Begagić.