Croatian reporters and media outlets staged a protest in Zagreb on Saturday in defense of media freedom – which they say is increasingly endangered by numerous lawsuits, political pressures, threats, and advertisers’ demands.
They complain of routine disrespect for the laws – but also of a bad legal framework and the absence of a clear media policy.
The protest slogan: “You’ve taken the media, but we’re not giving up journalism!”, which was written on a big banner, started at 12 pm at the Journalists’ House in Zagreb.
Protesters went on a walk to the Ministry of Culture, which is responsible for the media sector, then to Zagreb University and finally to St Mark’s Square, which houses the buildings of the parliament and government.
The protesting journalists and Croatian Journalists’ Association, CJA/HND, handed the government a document entitled “Eight demands against censorship”.
In it, they call on the authorities to stop the misuse of court lawsuits as a form of pressure, to legally protect journalists who publicly alert the public about the pressures they are exposed to, change the leadership of the public broadcaster, Croatian Radio-Television, HRT, change the Law on HRT and introduce public support for quality journalism.
The journalists’ association has said that more than 1,000 trials of Croatian journalists or media outlets are currently ongoing, and at least 30 of these have been filed by HRT.
Numerous non-governmental organizations and political parties boycotted HRT until Saturday, refusing to give interviews and calling on it to withdraw all its lawsuits against journalists and media outlets.
Journalists and media outlets told BIRN that such routine misuse of civil and criminal actions is designed to “intimidate critical journalism”.
They also say the Croatian government is largely responsible for this because of its silence and unwillingness to improve the situation.
Croatia’s leaders, including Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic, insist there are no threats to media freedom in the country, citing watchdog reports that list the country as having a free media.
The President of the Association of Croatian Journalists, Hrvoje Zovko, addressing protesters’ demands. Photo: BIRN
‘You took our media, we’re not giving you the mike!’ written on one of the banners. Photo: BIRN
The protesting journalists and Croatian Journalists’ Association, CJA/HND, handed the government a document entitled “Eight demands against censorship”. Photo: BIRN
Protesters gathered in front of the Journalists’ House in Zagreb. Photo: BIRN
Protesters in front of the University of Zagreb. Photo: BIRN
Croatian reporters and media outlets on protest in Zagreb. Photo: BIRN