The media in Bosnia and Herzegovina contribute to the process of reintegration and sustainable return

Investing in the promotion of the cooperation between the media, the local authorities and minority returnees is relevant and extremely significant at this moment in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Association Vesta in Tuzla is reaching the end of a project supported by the European Union, whose main objective was focused on the support for the sustainable return and reintegration of minority returnees and dislocated persons in NE Bosnia through reducing he effects of xenophobic elements and instances of negative propaganda in the media. Based on the findings of analyses, Association Vesta perceived the need of the returnees for greater support of the media in the process of reintegration and renewed coexistence in the return zones.

The area of NE Bosnia and Herzegovina, as the zone with the greatest return rate, has been selected for the implementation of the project activities, which contributed to the sensitization of the media and a decrease in the number of instances of propagating religious and national hatred, as well as instances of xenophobia and intolerance. In cooperation with the Mediacentar Foundation and the Centre for Free Access to Information from Sarajevo, Vesta organized training sessions for media workers from the area of NE Bosnia and Herzegovina on reporting about human rights and the social responsibility of the media. On the other hand, Vesta cooperated with citizens, representatives of local communities and the local authorities by holding multi-sector workshops on the importance of implementing the Law on Free Access to Information. The workshops were held in Bijeljina, Tuzla, Bratunac and Sapna, with very good turnout of the relevant participants from the Brčko District and 15 municipalities from both Entities. In addition to the education component of the project, we also launched a months-long campaign for reducing xenophobic and discriminatory elements in the return zones, with the involvement of all participants from the previously organized education sessions. With the support of Vesta Radio from Tuzla, Magic from Milići, Skala from Ugljevik, Slobomir from Bijeljina, Glas Drine from Sapna, Radio Bratunac from Bratunac, RTVTK and RTV Lukavac from Lukavac, we produced and broadcast 40 radio shows on the positive examples of sustainable return in the municipalities of NE Bosnia and Herzegovina. In addition, the campaign addressed the problems which returnees face on a daily basis, such as the lack of electricity, the lack of organized transport for school children and the elderly, the media blockade and lack of information. These topics were used for the production of short TV clips, which were realized in cooperation with the Vizart Studio from Tuzla, and broadcast via TV Liberty network on 30 television channels in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the regional TV station in the Tuzla Canton, RTV TK. Vesta reaffirmed its commitment to equal rights for all people in Bosnia and Herzegovina by putting up billboards with the message "Different people, equal rights," which could be seen in the area of NE Bosnia and Herzegovina for the past few weeks. In interviews with the project beneficiaries after the months-long campaign, it was confirmed that minority returnees now address the media and the local authorities more frequently for resolving the problems they are facing, and that the trust in the local institutions and journalists has been strengthened.

Association Vesta from Tuzla, through the support of the European Union and the Delegation of the European Commission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, has been active in returnee communities for six years, and has been realizing projects that enable the citizens to actively participate in the decision-making process at the local level. The projects have resulted in evident improvements in numerous returnee communities, and the most significant effects are reflected in the sustainability of the project ideas and the established mechanisms which operate to the benefit of the communities even after the formal ending of the project activities. For all this, Vesta is especially grateful to the Delegation of the European Commission in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to all the beneficiaries and participants of the projects so far.