Seven Months into the Covid-19 Pandemic: The case of Bosnia and Herzegovina

By Paul Bederke Oct. 13, 2020 Weekly Graphs

It has been seven months since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) as a pandemic. Almost all countries have reported cases, and most of them took emergency measures to contain the spread of the virus. The Pandemic Backsliding Project of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute is compiling a dataset that tracks state responses to the Covid-19 pandemic to capture variation in emergency measures and their execution, addressing how these decisions affect the short- and long-term prospects for democracy. 

The latest version of the dataset now covers the period from March to September. For certain variables, time series from March to June and July to September were added. V-Dem’s latest Policy Brief reports an encouraging trend as the situation for almost a quarter of the countries that engaged in some violations of democratic standards at the beginning of the pandemic improved over the last three months. This week’s Graph of the Week will illustrate this trend for Bosnia and Herzegovina.

On 17 March 2020, the government of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced a nationwide state of disaster after both entities – the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska – separately introduced emergency situations. Two days later, the parliament issued a statement in support of the adopted measures. While the measures did not affect the law-making role of the national legislature, the national-level responses did not have a clear time limit. As it is best practice that emergency provisions have a fixed time limit and are lifted when the situation improves, the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina is coded as a minor violation during the first period (March – June). After both entities lifted their emergency measures in late May and the Federal Civil Protection Headquarters has not issued any new orders for Covid-19 measures since 31 May 2020, the nationwide state of emergency is effectively lifted since the end of May.

With respect to the limitations on media freedom, authorities avoided answering journalists’ questions related to the pandemic. Furthermore, the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina restricted access to press conferences for the media to only three media representatives. As this is only the case in one subnational entity and no additional information indicates that these restrictions were lifted, minor violations of media freedom were coded for both periods. During the period March – June, TV journalists reporting on the situation in a Covid-19 isolation center in April were detained by the police, their mobile phones were confiscated and all recordings were deleted - despite valid press accreditations and permission to move during the curfew. This incident is reflected in the coding for the first period as a major violation of media freedom. Since it was a single incident and no further cases of limitations on media reporting about Covid-19, the government’s response or non-Covid-19 related news (but with reference to the pandemic) were reported, the second period (July – September) reflects just the other minor violations of media freedom.

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To learn more about the new version of the Pandemic Backsliding Project, visit and the GitHub repository.

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