In an interview for Banja Luka-based daily Nezavisne novine, Head of the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina Bruce Berton said that years-long and focused efforts would be needed to deal with the widespread corruption in the country.

Berton underlined that corruption in Bosnia and Herzegovina has become some sort of a cultural problem. “Citizens of this country have grown so accustomed to corruption they’re not even asking for accountability anymore”, he said.

Head of the OSCE Mission underlined that media freedoms in Bosnia and Herzegovina “are faced with great challenges”. “Not because of the legal framework, which I consider to be rather good, but because of the fact that laws are not being implemented”.

You are well-aware of those problems - journalists’ safety, unclear ownership, poor media literacy, political pressures, political bias, including of public broadcasters, and the entire series of other problems”, explained Berton, underlining that courage should not be a requirement for someone to work as a journalist in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

He added that the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina wanted to collect information about malicious lawsuits against journalists, the aim of which was to silence the critics.

Furthermore, Berton noted that political leaders were sometimes using irresponsible rhetoric and even fake news to turn attention away from things which are in the interest of the citizens. “During the most recent election campaign, there was not a lot honest debating on education, corruption issues and similar things. Everything boiled down to ‘trust us, and we will protect you from the others’”, explained Berton.

Head of the OSCE Mission to BiH reiterated that electoral legislation Bosnia and Herzegovina needed to be amended, as soon as possible, as local elections in the country are scheduled to take place in October 2020.

Berton believes, however, that even if those changes are not adopted in a timely manner, one should not expect international observers to say that election results should not be recognized due to shortcomings in the election process.

But it does not mean that things should remain the way they are”, said Berton, and concluded that he agreed with those who believe authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina should be formed without any conditions.