(Brussels, July 15, 2015) – Journalists in the Western Balkans work in a hostile environment that directly affects their ability to do critical, independent reporting essential to a democratic society. Authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia should take immediate steps to create safe working conditions for the media and to end impunity for crimes against journalists.

Authorities in the Western Balkan countries have an obligation to protect journalists and create a safe environment where they can freely report without government interference. This is particularly crucial in a fragile region like the Western Balkans, with its recent history of violent wars in which authorities used the media as a propaganda tool. While much has changed, the atmosphere for media in many parts of the Western Balkans is still characterized by danger and hostility rather than improving as part of the region’s democratic development.

The four Western Balkan countries are at various stages of membership negotiations. To qualify for EU membership, the countries need to fulfil certain membership criteria, which include respect for freedom of expression.