Censorship of the media in Croatia

On June 29, an international conference took place in Zagreb, Republic of Croatia focusing on the situation of media in the Republic of Croatia and the Western Balkans. The conference was organized by the Open Society Institute which invited and gathered journalists from Republic of Croatia and the region, foreign correspondents and guests, publishing houses, government officials, key international donors, NGOs, and others to participate.

The president of B.a.B.e. Sanja Sarnavka, opened the conference stressing that this is the third conference financed by Open Society Institute (OSI), although they have closed their office in Croatia. However, there is obviously, an OSI need for dealing with issues in Croatia, such as media censorship.

Aims of the conference were to raise public awareness of difficulties faced by the Croatian media, encourage active involvement of state and civil society organizations to promote freedom of speech and freedom of information as key components of open and democratic societies and contribute to establishing the Council for Regular Monitoring and Analysis of Media and Detection of all Forms of Censorship. Following the model of the project Censored, developed in the US, the council would constantly monitor all Croatian media and inform the public of its findings.

It has become common practice for public television general directors and news editors-in-chief to issue transfers, demotions, and public warnings to distinguished editors and journalists for political reasons/based on the political implications of their work.

Several distinguished journalists have had to shift jobs from one media outlet to another, and unemployment among Croatian journalists is increasing. Most job transitions came from the two most influential Croatian media outlets: Croatian Public Television – HRT and EPH/WAZ. Journalists transitioned to less prominent and powerful outlets that face fewer restrictions with less pressure and censorship. Many journalists have left their professions completely, opting not to work in the media field any longer due to ongoing restrictions on freedom of expression and decreasing professionalism in mainstream media outlets.

– Corrupted management of Croatian public television HRT

Sanja Mikleusevic Pavic, who is in journalism profession for 15 years now, mentioned several cases of censorship with the arrival of Hloverka Novak Srzic, new chief editor of the Informative program on HRT (Croatian National Television): “Novak Srzic just called me one day via phone, telling me I am transferred from “Otvoreno” (Croatian political TV magazine) to the “Hrvatska uzivo” (Croatia Live) program. Not giving me any explanation for that, except that “social issues suit me better”. The person who came as my substitution, Dijana Culjak Selebaj, turned out to be Novak Srzic’s close colleague and friend, who always wanted that position.“

“And how is it possible that a person which is in court trial with HRT, HRT calls to be chief director of its Informative program ?”, asks Mrs. Mikleusevic Pavic and adds: “What ways of reasonable thinking were there? And most of all, why nobody is asking him/herself that?”

– Threats to investigative journalists

Denis Latin, the editor of HRT TV program “Latinica” also mentioned his case, where he was threatened by “prisavski trio” (chief director of HRT, Vanja Sutlic, chief director of Informative HRT program, Novak Srzic and Council of HRT “which is extremely politicized and always strongly supports the standpoints of the management”). “The Trio” directly told him that they will “destroy him” after he broadcasted a show where he raised an issue of the origins of property (amongst all, the origins of property of then, current prime minister of Republic of Croatia, Ivo Sanader).

Latin had stated that last year was the hardest for journalists in Croatia: “It was not like this, even during the ‘90s. Sanader succeeded to do something that even Tudjman could not have. He showed us that the freedom of press may be limited by political instrumentalization of management structures, in this case of public television. Journalists are petrified, they are afraid of losing jobs in this period of world crisis, so they avoid saying anything on limitation of freedom of press they’re facing with these months.”

Croatia has fallen on the freedom of press scale and now it is positioned behind Serbia and Slovenia. “The fear atmosphere has been created in which free press work is almost impossible. Current media reality in Croatia, it seems to me, shows that ‘90s were even more fruitful than period in which we currently live in”, concluded Latin.

– “Dead journalist is the best journalist”

Hrvoje Appelt, ex journalist of Globus and Jutarnji list, has repeated on the conference his standpoints noted in his speech he recently made in the National Council of Republic of Croatia. Appelt revealed concrete cases of corruption and intertwined links of media and political management of the Republic of Croatia, which took major public and (independent) media attention.

He announced music concert where “those who know best the social situation in Croatian state and society will be invited, and those are rockers and hip-hoppers”. He also plans to design a website which will be an internet database of all known cases of attacks or threats to journalists in Croatia. “Maybe I should name that page: Dead journalist is the best journalist”, jested Appelt.

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