According to the 2013 Census, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) has a total population of 3,531,159, a decrease from the 1991 Census which recorded a total population of 4,377,033.

The Federation of BiH is home to 2,219,220 people, while the Republika Srpska has a population of 1,228,423, and the District of Brčko has 83,516 residents.

Women slightly outnumber men, comprising 50.9 % of the population, with an average age of 39.5 years, lower than the EU median age of 44.4 years in 2022.

According to the Statistics Agency of BiH, since 2009, the country has experienced a negative natural change, indicating more deaths than births annually.

The illiteracy rate, based on the 2013 Census, stands at 2.82 % while the %age of the population having attained some level of higher education is 12.7, the lowest in the region.  

A significant concern is the flight of human capital, with over half a million people leaving BiH since 2013, according to estimates from the Union for Sustainable Return and Integrations. The Statistics Agency reports that in July 2023, there were 350,461 people registered as unemployed, of which 205,505 were women.

In terms of digital skills, BiH is at the bottom of the European ranking. The 2019 Research on the Use of Information and Communication Technology in BiH revealed that only 20 % of women and 29 % of men possess basic or advanced digital skills, significantly below the EU averages of 54 % for women and 58 % for men. Despite this data, BiH lacks a nationwide strategy for developing digital and media literacy skills among its population.

The ethnic composition of BiH also influences citizens’ media consumption habits. Based on the 2013 Census, Bosniaks constitute 50.11% of the population, Serbs 30.78%, Croats 15.43%, and others 2.73%. “Others” is the official term referring to national minorities and those not identifying with any of the three constitutive ethnic groups.

The census also revealed the ethnic composition of the two entities: 92.11% of Bosnian Serbs reside in Republika Srpska, while 91.39% of Bosnian Croats and 88.23% of Bosniaks live in the Federation.

The data on language and religion mirror these statistics, with 52.9% speaking Bosnian, 30.8% Serbian, and 14.5% Croatian. Regarding religion, 50.7% identify as Muslim, 30.7% as Orthodox, and 15.2% as Catholic.

BiH is classified as an upper middle-income country, but despite inflation in recent years, the average net wage remains low, standing at 647 euros (1262 BAM) in 2023. Based on Eurostat data, the gross domestic product per inhabitant in BiH, considering purchasing power, was only 34% of the EU average in 2022.

The country’s ethnic structure, low digital and media literacy skills, and low average net wages all contribute to shaping the media consumption patterns of its citizens.

Verbal attacks on journalists in BiH are frequent. In 2022, the Free Media Helpline of the Association BiH Journalists documented 79 violations of media freedom and journalists’ rights, while the Safe Journalists platform identified 31 instances of attacks, threats, and coercion targeting journalists that same year.

There are high levels of distrust toward journalists and the media. A 2023 survey by the Association BiH Journalists and Friedrich Ebert Foundation indicates that one in four respondents believes attacks on journalists can be justified, marking a 16% increase from 2022. In the Republika Srpska, an alarming 74% of inhabitants hold this belief.

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