SARAJEVO – As part of our conflict prevention efforts, the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) is inviting people across Bosnia and Herzegovina to sign up for a citizens’ forum in July to recommend standards for the responsible use of social media in the run-up to elections in October.

About 70 participants – chosen by stratified random sampling to reflect social and regional diversity – will be asked to develop a citizens’ charter to raise awareness of the risks of harmful online content, hold political actors accountable for inflammatory rhetoric and encourage social media platforms to take decisive action to protect the Balkan country’s digital space.

“With the approach of elections in October, the toxic use of social media risks exacerbating existing divisions in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Mark Baskin, HD’s senior advisor for Eurasia.

“The citizens’ forum gives people the unique opportunity to decide what kind of behaviour is acceptable online by combining deliberative democracy with efforts to strengthen responsible social media use.”

People attending the Citizens’ Forum on Responsible Social Media Use from July 28 to 31 on Mount Jahorina will receive an honorarium and their expenses will be paid.

HD’s Balkans team is leading the project with the support of HD’s global Digital Conflict programme and guidance from a steering committee of academics and media specialists in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

“Hate speech and misinformation are spreading widely on social media platforms in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” said Leila Bičakčić, executive director of the Center for Investigative Reporting and a member of the steering committee.

“Young people are particularly vulnerable to these trends and this project will help raise awareness of the risks in the online space among them and broader society.”  

The project builds on HD’s previous digital initiatives that include the signing of a landmark social media peace agreement in central Nigeria and electoral codes of conduct in Indonesia and Kosovo. The Digital Conflict programme is part of HD’s mediation and peacemaking in more than 75% of conflicts around the world.

Across the Balkans, HD works on a variety of mediation efforts with a range of international and civil society organisations, universities and community groups.