Supporting the Next Generation of Media Law and Media Lawyers in BiH

September 24, 2014

Josh Machleder, Internews Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and Asia Programs is traveling in Eurasia, visiting Internews projects and sending updates on the work of local media and civil society in-country.

When Anja Gengo, a third-year law student at the University of Sarajevo, saw the USAID-funded Internews project in Bosnia call for applicants to its Media Law Clinic and Moot Court, she didn't even know that media law existed. "It's something you don't even hear about," she said.

She had already had some experience in moot courts, debates, and public speaking, as well as some practical legal experience working in her family's law firm, but for her, media law was a new and exciting topic. There had not been any academic literature published in the country on the topic for lawyers and law students until 2012, when Internews published "Media Law in Bosnia and Herzegovina;" now seen as the foundation for the study and scholarship of media law in Bosnia.

Anja spent August of 2012 until March of 2013 at the Media Law Clinic and Moot Court, in intensive preparation, immersing herself in documents, international treaties, norms, court records, case histories, and a host of new legal concepts, including terminology related to Freedom of Expression. These topics were new not only to her, but also to her law professors. She and her team from the law faculty wrote memorials (petitions) and prepared oral arguments, culminating with the team's participation in the international media law moot court at Oxford, which, according to Anja, "was like a fairy tale."

Learning about media law through interactive discussion and application was a revelation to Anja and her peers. First, the approach and methodology of the clinic and moot court was the first experience in her education that truly integrated theory and very practical legal work that was interactive and used actual cases.

Second, according to her, she became "recognized as the biggest nerd in Sarajevo," immersing herself in the issue of media law with assistance from the project staff to become a trainer and lecturer. She served as a lecture assistant at a clinic the following academic year.

Anja has since gone to media law summer school at Oxford to do more in-depth study into issues of technology and human rights, online privacy, defamation, and access to information, among other issues, and to make contact with leading international scholars in the field.

Because of the interest, dedication, and enthusiasm of students like Anja who are willing to come on Saturdays for four to five hour sessions, faculties around the country are now considering introducing media law as a subject, or at least as an elective course for which students receive academic credits (University of Zenica started doing so last year). And students like Anja are becoming active in the field of study, as lecturers or assistant lecturers, as well as producing scholarly articles about hot topics in the media legal sector.

Anja graduated in 2013 and is working at a Sarajevo law firm, currently researching her dissertation. She is blogging and writing policy papers on the role of media in post-conflict societies and the regulation of hate speech online, a topic of particular relevance to post-conflict Bosnia.