Due to many years of conflicts and wars in the Middle East, a large number of residents from the countries of that area are trying to find their refuge on European soil. Since 2018, Bosnia and Herzegovina has been facing a large influx of migrants, who enter in our country often illegally. Since then, local media have become more actively involved in reporting on this population.
Since the beginning of the migrant crisis in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the media, in most cases, have used the term migrants for these people. With the widespread xenophobia in our society, it seems that the media do not contribute to calming the situation, when it comes to the migrant crisis, and newspaper articles are written with the intention of attracting as many readers as possible, without checking information about the certain events. Media with more empathy for this group of people make a distinction between different groups, and use names like people on the move and refugees, although their number is very small.
According to international and laws in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a refugee is any foreigner who has fled the country of origin due to war or fear of persecution, while a migrant is any person who has left the country of origin, usually for economic reasons. An analysis of the most – read media in Bosnia and Herzegovina shows that very few of them have written about this difference, trying to explain to the public the difference between the two terms. Some of them are N1, Anadolu Agency – Bosnian service, VOA in Bosnian and BUKA. Further, it seems that in Bosnia and Herzegovina the least mentioned group in the media are asylum seekers, the people who have applied for asylum in our country, whereby they can receive one of the two forms of international protection (refugee status or subsidiary protection).
All these groups in the Bosnian-Herzegovinian media are mostly called migrants, and the articles about them are usually full of negative news. Some of them have the following titles: “Migrants who committed an armed robbery in Zenica caught in Donji Vakuf”, “Details of the horrific crime near Tešanj: Migrant stabbed with knife in the head”, “A migrant, accused of rape and infected with HIV, has escaped”, etc. By the number of news that speak negatively about this population, the site by name antimigrant.ba is in the forefront, using very often pejoratives in its articles, such as brothers in faith, lovers of people on the move1 , brothers from ISIS, ”miserable” muhajirs2, etc., which makes readers to feel more disdain toward migrants.
Most of the sources used by the Bosnian media in reporting on migrants are unreliable and are often based on eyewitness comments, when it comes to committing crimes, without waiting for an official report from the authorities. Media that are better equipped and have a larger structure and coverage are often sources of smaller media with regional character, although neither of them shows serious attention for fact-checking. The most famous case of false news-spreading is related to the murder of a young man from Ilidža, where a migrant of Moroccan origin was accused of that crime. Shortly afterwards, news of the event have been spread through media portals, with a prominent image of the first defendant. A few days later, the police arrested a person who matched the description, although it turned out shortly afterwards that he was not a murderer, but a Moroccan with a similar appearance. However, this did not stop the Bosnian media from reporting on the latter as a murderer, without waiting for confirmation of identity by the competent authorities.
Finally, it should be emphasized that most media write and act according to the directives of their governing structures, which are often different political parties. Depending on their attitude towards the migrant issue, the tone of media reporting is also directed (e.g. RTRS, Bljesak.info, STAV Magazine, etc.).
1 referring to the people who are helping them
2 Muhajirs is Arabic term for migrants.
Author: Dragan Zelenović