Politics and Media
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a parliamentary democracy with a highly complex and asymmetric government structure. This political system, established by the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords, is based on consociationalism, ensures power sharing among the country's three constituent peoples – Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats – and provides veto mechanisms for these groups. The Presidency consists of three representative members: one Bosniak, one Serb, and one Croat.
The government comprises four administrative levels and three branches of power: executive, legislative and judiciary. At the state level, the Council of Ministers of BiH exercises executive power, while legislative power is vested in the Council of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, whose members are chosen through proportional representation.
The Dayton Peace Accords also stipulated the establishment of the Office of the High Representative (OHR), an international institution responsible for overseeing the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Dayton Peace Accords.
The two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation of BiH and the Republika Srpska, are to some extent politically autonomous and have asymmetric structures, while the Brčko District is a self-governing administrative unit. The Federation of BiH is divided into ten cantons, each with its own government and parliament, while Republika Srpska has a centralized government and parliament.
The country became a candidate for European Union membership in December 2022, despite its failure to implement the majority of the 14 key priorities set out by the European Commission, including those to pertaining to improving media freedoms and the freedom of expression.
General elections were held in October 2022, marred by accusations of fraud and changes to the election law. In this election, Denis Bećirović (SDP BiH), Željka Cvijanović (SNSD), and Željko Komšić (Demokratska Fronta) were elected as members of the tripartite Presidency. Ethnonational Bosniak, Serb, and Croat parties secured a majority of seats in the BiH Parliamentary Assembly and as well as many positions in the Council of Ministers.
In 2023, the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH filed an indictment against Republika Srpska President, Milorad Dodik, accusing him of failing to implement the decisions of the OHR.
In 2023, the Prosecutor’s Office of BiH filed an indictment against the president of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik under the charges that he had failed to execute the decisions of the High Representative in BiH. This decision was characterized by the Republika Srpska political leadership as anti-Serb, leading to public protests and secessionist rhetoric.
Ethnic tensions have dominated the political discourse in BiH in recent years, since the 2021 amendments to the Criminal Code, prohibiting genocide and war crime denial as well as the glorification of war criminals. Despite these amendments, the denial and glorification of war crimes have persisted. The country is also divided in its stance on the war in Ukraine and the independence of Kosovo, which is reflected in polarized and often biased media reporting.
According to the 2022 Freedom House Report, there has been severe partisan gridlock among the leaders from the country’s three ethnic groups, and corruption and the lack of judicial independence remain serious problems. On the Corruption Perception Index published by Transparency International, BiH received a score of 34 out of 100, making it the third worst country in Europe in terms of corruption.
Political parties wield considerable influence over media outlets, primarily through financing and ownership. BiH ranks 64th out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index, operating within an extremely unfavorable political and economic environment.
Media reporting is often politically and ethno-nationally biased, especially concerning current political issues and historical events such as war commemorations. Many media outlets serve as political mouthpieces, promoting specific parties and ideologies, particularly during election seasons. Effective mechanisms have yet to be found for preventing political interference in the appointments of decision-making bodies in public media, public service broadcasters, and regulators.
High-ranking political representatives frequently attack journalists in public statements and press conferences, portraying them as traitors. The Communications Regulatory Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina is subject to political influence and fails to enforce measures against breaches of professional standards, particularly concerning public service broadcasters.
Introduction to the political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Saša Gavrić, Damir Banović, dr Christina Krause, Sarajevo Open Center, 2009
Accessed in October 2023
The Office of the High Representative - General Information Accessed in October 2023
Mapping hate database, Detektor.ba Accessed in October 2023
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Freedom House Accessed in October
Bosnia and Herzegovina, Transparency International Accessed in October 2023
Reporters without borders Index Accessed in October 2023
Harmful narratives during elections: Smear campaigns, gender stereotypes and hate narratives - 2022 general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mediacentar Sarajevo, 2023 Accessed in October 2023