How ATV ended up on the U.S. sanctions list?
Formerly synonymous with free journalism with a critical view of social events in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Alternativna Televizija (Alternative Television) from Banja Luka has been under US sanctions since January 5 of this year, media.ba writes. A statement from the US Treasury Department called Alternativna Televizija Dodik’s personal media outlet.
Alternativna Televizija d.o.o. Banja Luka (ATV), a media outlet based in Banja Luka, RS, is privately owned by a company closely linked to Dodik’s family. However, Dodik himself exerts personal control over ATV behind the scenes, such as by requiring personal approval on media stories related to politically sensitive topics. Dodik acquired ATV to deliberately and expressly further his own agenda, which includes his efforts to denigrate other political figures, burnish his public image, and advance his own personal and political goals,” stated the press release.
It is further elaborated that Dodik made sure all ATV-related contracts are awarded directly to members of his family, which he has allegedly used as yet another avenue for corruption.
He has funneled money directly from public companies to ATV for corrupt purposes. Dodik has substantially increased funding for ATV in recent years and engaged in malign social media influence campaigns through ATV to publish content that advances his political and personal goals. ATV is being designated pursuant to E.O. 14033 for being owned or controlled by, or having acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, Dodik,” the US Government press release reads.
In an interview for Nezavisne novine and Oslobođenje, the US Ambassador in BiH Eric Nelson additionally clarified why ATV was under sanctions.
“As an American entity, we are not allowed to do business with ATV, but it is very important to understand that ATV is not being sanctioned as a media company, but as a corrupt company controlled by Dodik and his family. Through it, Dodik directed tenders to go to his children, public tenders related to ATV, and it is a corrupt business unit. This is not about judging the integrity of journalists, but a corrupt business unit,” Nelson said in the interview.
ATV has already felt the first effects of the sanctions. The American tech company Google has blocked the ATV accounts on all its services, starting from YouTube, Analytics and AdSense, and they will soon be removed from the search engine as well. Facebook is expected to follow suit. ATV denies any connection with the Dodik family and sees the sanctions as a blow to democracy.
“As we have already announced, we are surprised, not only by this precedent and the introduction of sanctions against one media outlet but also by numerous general and unfounded phrases that explain them. Bringing the ownership of ATV in connection with the Serbian member of the Presidency of BiH Milorad Dodik or any other politician is completely ridiculous and represents tendentious attempts to destroy the image and brand of ATV – a television that has been successfully and independently pursuing its editorial policy for 25 years, and shall continue to do so in the future,” ATV Director Srđan Kevac said for Mediacentar Sarajevo, emphasizing that he finds it unthinkable to sanction any media outlet in such a way.
“This is primarily a direct blow to democracy, media freedoms and the freedom of speech, and then an unprecedented attempt to discredit and target ATV with the goal of suffocating and shutting us down. The truth cannot be censored or banned, and we will continue on the path we have set out on. Our only judge can be the public and the audience to which we are responsible, as is the case for any other media outlet," added Kevac.
The full story is available on CEETV’s Facebook page.