SARAJEVO – AUGUST 1, 2022 – As part of our global efforts to limit hostile online behaviour and prevent conflict, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) has facilitated a Citizens’ Charter on responsible social media conduct in Bosnia and Herzegovina ahead of general elections in October.

The charter – which discourages hate speech, harassment, disinformation and the use of bots and trolls on social media during the election period – will now be promoted to the public, political parties and international institutions to encourage understanding and adoption of the guidelines.

“It is very important that our voice be heard and that we tell politicians that we do not agree with their behaviour on social networks and we want it to change,” said Milkica Milojević from Banja Luka.

A group of 50 citizens – chosen by stratified random sampling to reflect the country’s social and regional diversity – developed the call to action at a four-day Citizens’ Forum in Jahorina under the guidance of HD’s Balkans and Digital Conflict teams and a steering committee of academics, media experts and civil society groups in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

HD worked with democracyCo, global specialists in citizen deliberations, to design and lead the forum.

“The diversity of the participants in this forum has led to a very high-quality product,” said Ivan Volić from Travnik. “These standards should encourage users of social networks to behave more responsibly and help create a safer online space.”

Read the charter in EnglishBosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

To track progress, an independent body will monitor the social media space in Bosnia and Herzegovina and observe online behaviour before and during the election.

“This charter is another important step in HD’s initiatives to develop norms for online conduct as social media becomes an increasingly harmful tool in conflicts around the world,” said Adam Cooper, director of HD’s Digital Conflict programme.

“The innovative use of deliberative democracy at the Citizens’ Forum gives the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina a real voice in the society they want and expect.”

Jasmina Hadžić from Sarajevo agreed. “It is important that all citizens know what is happening in the election process, to recognise the credibility of information and sources, but also to reduce disinformation, bots and trolls to make social networks safer platforms,” she said.

The charter builds on HD’s digital mediation work in the Balkans after we brokered the region’s first social media code of conduct in Kosovo in 2021.

HD’s work to counter toxic online behaviour also includes a landmark social media peace agreement in central Nigeria and an electoral code of conduct in Indonesia.

“The Citizens’ Charter provides an effective antidote to hate speech and misinformation that have been spreading widely on social media in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Leila Bičakčić, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting and a member of the steering committee.

“It can lead to effective institutions with a mandate to promote responsible freedom of speech.” 

The Digital Conflict programme is part of HD’s private diplomacy, mediation and peacemaking initiatives in more than 75% of conflicts around the world.