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Political party places reporting ban on TV channel

(IPI/IFEX) - Vienna, 8 October 2010 - The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South and East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), strongly condemns the ban imposed by a political party on Alternativna Televizija (Alternative TV - ATV) - which is now unable to access and report on the election locations of Aquana and Banski Dvor in Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

According to information received by SEEMO, on 3 October 2010, during elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, ATV received a memo signed by a representative of the political party Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (Savez Nezavisnih Socijaldemokrata - SNSD) prohibiting ATV from accessing and even reporting from the election locations.

SEEMO is very concerned about this ban, especially since the SNSD party is led by Milorad Dodik, Prime Minister of Republika Srpska (Serbian entity) in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

A week before the memo was received, on 24 September 2010, during a general meeting with journalists at the Prime Minister's office in Banja Luka, ATV journalist Vladimir Kovacevic was allegedly insulted and called a liar by Prime Minister Milorad Dodik after he posed a question regarding progress on the building of a highway between Banja Luka and Gradiska.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said: "SEEMO is alarmed at the fact that a high level political representative such as the Prime Minister of Republika Srpska, together with his ruling party, has on several occasions within a short timeframe exerted pressure on ATV. Preventing journalists from reporting on matters in the public interest is a serious press freedom violation, as journalists have the right to work freely and enjoy unrestricted access to all information concerning matters of public interest."

Vujovic added: "SEEMO calls on the local officials of the political parties in Banja Luka to express any dissatisfaction with journalists in other, democratic ways instead of blocking communication. All media should be treated equally. It is very important that government representatives recognise the principles of press freedom by allowing critical reporting. SEEMO urges the Prime Minister to change his behaviour in communicating with the media, and to accept that diversity and critical reporting are a foundation of democratic development in any society."

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