Bosnian Reporter Threatened for Criticising Burka

By Maja Garaca Djurdjevic

Bosnian journalist Lejla Colak. Photo courtesy of Colak

After reporter Lejla Colak compared the wearing of the burka and niqab with the public display of sex toys, she received threats of murder and rape.

Bosnian journalist Lejla Colak told BIRN on Monday that she had received a series of threats of violence after criticising Islamic garments like the burka and niqab in a post she wrote on Facebook.

In her post on August 26, Colak, an atheist, compared wearing such garments in public to wearing a “strap-on dildo in the streets”.

“Religion should be intimate, just like sexuality. Keep it to yourself and the like-minded. Do not impose it on others,” Colak wrote.

After local Islamic news portal Saff.ba published criticism of her post, Colak began receiving threats via Facebook Messenger and in the comments section of the post.

“Are there any volunteers to rape lovely Lejla? … I will personally pay for it???” wrote one man, whose online profile says that he is a member of the Bosnian Army.

Two female social media users called for Colak to be run over by a car, soaked in petrol and burned.

Colak said she was prepared for negative comments and insults but did not foresee the threats she would receive.

“I am not afraid to express my views. I used an analogy awkwardly. I could have constructed it better. But I could not have assumed that it would lead to this,” the Sarajevo-based reporter told BIRN.

Since her initial post, she has apologised on Facebook for causing offence by mentioning a sex toy in connection with religion.

“I can apologise for the form but not for the content. Yes, religion (all of them) should be a private matter, yes, everything I have said I mean. Forgive me only for that piece of plastic with which I have hurt the feelings of the public,” she wrote.

Colak has reported the threats to the police and to the Bosnian Army.

Bosnia’s defence ministry said in a statement on Monday that it is investigating the case. Defence minister Marina Pendes condemned “any form of inappropriate behaviour” by a soldier.

The ministry also stated that troops are obliged to respect an ethical code as well as Bosnian law.

The Association of BH Journalists expressed its support for Colak on Monday, calling on the police cybercrime taskforce and the army to ensure the perpetrators were brought to justice.

The Banja Luka-based Human Rights Centre noted meanwhile that freedom of speech is safeguarded by law in Bosnia.

“The Banja Luka Human Rights Centre expresses its full support for Lejla Colak and calls on the authorities to react and protect Lejla’s rights and her physical integrity, as well as her freedom to express her own point of view by prosecuting all those who sent her threatening messages, as well as all those who intend to do her harm,” it said in a statement.

Originally published at www.balkaninsight.com on August 30, 2016.

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