Support to strengthening of PR capacities in prosecutors offices in BiH

Training for spokespersons and public relations officers and dialogue with the media

Published on: June 08, 2015
As part of USAID's Justice Project activities in BiH aimed at strengthening prosecutor offices' (PO) capacities in the area of public relations and increasing their transparency, a two day gathering of spokespersons and public information officers of all POs in Bosnia and Herzegovina was held in Sarajevo on June 8-9, 2015. Representatives of ten cantonal POs from the Federation of BiH, five district POs from Republika Srpska, Federal PO of the Federation of BiH and PO of Brčko District of BiH were present at the meeting.

Participants agreed that for most POs the institutional capacities and human resources are not sufficient to carry out effective public relations tasks, and that this has contributed to negative public perceptions on the work of the judiciary in general. In most POs, public relations tasks are performed by secretaries who are jurists by vocation and who primarily perform other duties within POs. Therefore, continued training is necessary to improve their public information skills so that they can better serve the citizens of BiH. In addition, spokespersons must deal with a certain lack of understanding from within POs, due to the inherent conflict between the need to protect the investigation, and the pressures and demands for information being made by the public.

During the two day event, on June 8, a Founding Assembly of the future Association of PO spokespersons and public information officers was held. The Association will be registered at the State level with the Ministry of Justice of BiH. Its mission will be to strengthen the role of spokespersons in POs and increase the overall capacities of POs to provide information to citizens in a proactive, timely and effective manner. Participants developed a strategic framework for the functioning of the future Association, and will work in line with efforts undertaken by relevant institutions and projects in the area of judicial transparency, such as USAID's Justice Project in BiH, and the Project of Strengthening POs (of the Swiss Development Agency) active within the HJPC.

On the second day, an educational workshop on the relationship between POs and the media, was held by journalist Boro Kontic. There was an open discussion with media representatives on ways to overcome challenges with regard to media reporting from the judiciary on the one hand, and transparency of POs on the other. The workshop was used to present the most common problems in everyday work which can lead to miscommunications between POs and the media. Participants were able to develop areas of agreement and some conclusions on ways to bridge the different interests of the media and POs, with the aim of accurately reporting and creating an open relationship with the public.