Around 30 non-governmental organisations said on Tuesday that they will not give interviews to Croatian Radio-Television, HRT until March 2, when a protest will be held by the Croatian Journalists’ Association calling on the public broadcaster to withdraw all its lawsuits against journalists and media outlets.
“We, the undersigned organisations, will not participate in HRT programmes, or appear in the HRT studio, or make statements in front of HRT’s cameras until a protest by [Croatian] journalists called ‘You have taken the media, but we are not giving up journalism!’ is on March 2,” the NGOs said in a statement on Facebook.
HRT has not publicly commented on the protest announcement so far.
Lovorka Sosic from the Zagreb-based Centre for Peace Studies, which was among the signatories, told BIRN that the lawsuits filed by HRT should be withdrawn.
She said that she hopes that in the near future HRT will become “a public media, not a state media”.
The Croatian Journalists’ Association has said that there are more than 1,000 ongoing trials of Croatian journalists or media outlets, and at least 30 charges have been filed by HRT.
The association said it sees the lawsuits as attacks on the freedom of the media and attempts to intimidate journalists, and its protest will call for “a sustainable media policy and a legal framework that protects the independence and freedom of the journalistic profession”.
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic has rejected the association’s claims, stressing that according to international watchdog Freedom House, Croatia is a free country with free media and free media ownership structure.
“To say today that there is no media freedom in Croatia means that the person making this claim is not reading the papers, listening to the radio or watching TV,” Plenkovic said on February 6.
In September last year, HRT sacked Hrvoje Zovko, the president of Croatian Journalists’ Association, who was a journalist and editor at the public broadcaster, citing a “series of insults, misconduct, extremely inappropriate and unprofessional statements”.
Zovko, who had worked for HRT for 21 years, had spoken out about the state of media freedom in Croatia and alleged censorship at HRT.
HRT later sued the Croatian Journalists’ Association, the president of its branch at HRT, Sanja Mikleusevic Pavic, and Zovko over alleged damage to the “honour and reputation” of the broadcaster due to their public statements. HRT sought damages of 500,000 kunas, roughly 70,000 euros.
Zovko denied any wrongdoing and dismissed the complaint as “shameful”.
HRT told BIRN at the time that it had no option but to seek legal redress “because they have untruthfully claimed that there is censorship within HRT, though they know that none exists”.