The Free Internet Project


Summary: Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitution provides for freedom of expression and a right to privacy, and also incorporates the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite these protections, journalists and media sometimes face hostilities. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have ISP safe harbors or a law requiring net neutrality. It is applying to become a member of the EU, which would require both.  

Internet freedoms:

(1) Free speech

The Constitution recognizes the freedom of expression in Article 2(3)(h). [English text]  In addition, the Constitution states: "The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and its Protocols shall apply directly in Bosnia and Herzegovina."  Article 10 of ECHR protects the freedom of expression:

  1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
  2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary. [English text]

According to a U.S. Department of State 2015 report, journalists and media faced increasing pressure and threats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  Government officials and politicians have sometimes attempted to use both intimidation and hate speech laws to stifle criticism against them, although not yet against online media. However, in 2015, the legislature enacted a law that vaguely prohibited content on the Internet that was “insulting or disturbing” (except for related to public institutions).  Several organizations challenged the law to the RS Constitutional Court as unconstitutional.    

(2) Privacy

The Constitution recognizes a right to privacy: "The right to private and family life, home, and correspondence." [English text]  The right is similar in wording to Article 8 of the ECHR, which has an additional section stating: "There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic wellbeing of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others."

The U.S. State Department Human Rights Report did not find evidence of unlawful monitoring of online communications. 

Bosnia and Herzegovina has a data protection law enacted in 2006 [source], similar to the approach of the EU Data Protection Directive 95/46/ec.

(3) Access

Bosnia and Herzegovina does not guarantee a legal right to Internet access.  According to 2013 ITU figures, it had 84% Internet penetration with 2,782,107 users.

ISP safe harbors:

Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have ISP safe harbors.

Net Neutrality

Bosnia and Herzegovina does not have a law requiring net neutrality.  Bosnia and Herzegovina is currently applying for admission into the European Union, which requires net neutrality.