Media Plan, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to freedom of expression and the media, has been systematically monitoring the media coverage of the October general elections. Media Plan seeks to evaluate the monitored media’s performance in providing objective and balanced coverage of the contestants and their platforms so the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina can make well-informed choices at the ballot box. The main objective of the project is to inform the public about the conduct of media during the pre-election campaign and to initiate a discussion about the objectivity and quality of the media reporting. The project is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the UK Government, the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and the European Union.
The monitoring is intended to offer professional, comprehensive, and objective assessment of political diversity, accuracy, and balance in news and current affairs coverage on nine television channels, three radio stations, six newspapers, and four online media outlets.1 The project’s findings are not intended to support any one candidate or political party, but the integrity of the media environment as a whole during the campaign season. The findings will be compiled in four monitoring reports about the media’s behavior during the election campaign and are to be disseminated to the public, media, civil society, political parties and international community.
The methodology was developed by MEMO 98 which has carried out similar projects in 48 countries in the last 15 years. Given its comprehensive content-oriented approach, the methodology is specially designed to provide in-depth feedback on pluralism and diversity in media reporting, including coverage of chosen subjects and themes. The outcome of the monitoring is not just a set of data, but a detailed analysis and evaluation of the current level of political diversity in media reporting, examined in the proper context, and incorporating concrete comparisons and analysis.
Following is the summary of the main monitoring findings covering one week prior and one week of the official campaign period (1 – 14 September):
- The media as a whole have so far provided voters with a diverse range of information about electoral contestants and other relevant political subjects.
- Broadcasters have provided contestants with an opportunity to convey their massages to voters in many debates and newspapers and portals launched special election sections.
- A significant coverage was devoted to the activities of the authorities, many of whom are candidates in the elections. At the same time, apart from some exceptions, critical and independent opinions on the performance of the authorities have been absent from the coverage.
- Data from the first two weeks of monitoring shows wide differences in the way political subjects are portrayed and in the amount of coverage provided to them. Some monitored outlets more or less openly showed their sympathies towards particular political parties.
- Voters would benefit from a more analytical and in-depth coverage that could help them to better analyze and assess the qualities and programmes of electoral contestants.