Job loss, eviction and social ostracism are just some of the risks that LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) individuals in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) encounter when their sexual orientation is revealed. Fear of these risks prevents them from reporting discrimination and bias-motivated crimes to the police or in the media.
"I would not dare press charges against anyone who victimized me for being a lesbian. It would only lead to more problems for me," said one BiH citizen, who preferred to remain anonymous.
Traditionally, BiH media outlets have shied away from reporting on issues that are deemed controversial, especially LGBT issues. But one Sarajevo student has decided to tackle the topic. Mladen Lukic, an alumni of a journalism internship program under USAID’s Strengthening Independent Media project, is helping to bring LGBT rights into public conversation through his reporting.
Empowered with the skills and knowledge he acquired from the internship program, Lukic published his groundbreaking article on LGBT rights, “LGBT Community in BiH: No Right to Human Rights,” in a local online news portal earlier in 2013.
“My university's journalism department doesn’t offer resources for online journalism. The internship program gave me not only the confidence to report on this topic, but also training in how to successfully publish articles online,” says Lukic.
His article reports on cooperation initiated by the Sarajevo Police Department with the Sarajevo Open Center, a local LGBT organization and partner of the Strengthening Independent Media project. The local police authority is aware of and willing to help prosecute crimes against LGBT people in Sarajevo—something many citizens don’t know, Lukic reported.
“It was really great to see the police take the initiative and contact the Sarajevo Open Center for training and information on LGBT issues,” Lukic said.
Lukic’s article won him the distinguished Srdjan Aleksic award, an annual prize awarded by the Helsinki Citizens Assembly of Banja Luka and CURE Foundation Sarajevo to journalists who report on marginalized groups in BiH.
USAID’s Strengthening Independent Media project, which runs October 2010-October 2015, promotes complete, unbiased news coverage through traditional and alternative media. The program is designed to improve the quality of existing media outlets and sources and to raise professional standards for basic and investigative journalism. It also helps to develop online media outlets and alternative news sources, which include citizen reporting via social media, and gives voice to those who often go unheard in BiH, such as women, youth and minorities.
Last updated: January 16, 2015