New Croatian Fund Aids Journalists and Rights Victims

At a time of growing pressure on the media, a human rights foundation in Croatia is launching a new solidarity fund to help journalists and others whose rights have been violated.

‘A lawsuit per capita’ – banner at the journalists’ protest in Zagreb, March 2. Photo: Anja Vladisavljevic.

The Croatian Solidarna foundation for human rights and solidarity announced on Sunday that it is launching a new fund to aid to victims of human rights violations, such as journalists, activists, whistleblowers and others, who are left isolated or feel exposed to administrative, political and social pressures.

Ivan Blazevic, from Solidarna, told BIRN that the idea for the fund, which they have called Solidarka, dated back to when they launched the foundation in 2015. Now they feel it is the time to do it.

“Due to our [lack of] internal capacities, we were not able to launch it [the fund], but nowadays we have seen that we must react more quickly,” he said, referring especially to “the public television suing its journalists and journalists other media houses”.

He added: “We see that activists and defendants of human rights are under attack.”

As BIRN reported, Croatian reporters and media outlets staged a protest in Zagreb last Saturday in defence of media freedom, which they say is increasingly endangered by numerous lawsuits, political pressures, threats, and advertisers’ demands.

The Croatian Journalists’ Association has said that more than 1,000 trials of journalists or media outlets are currently ongoing in Croatia. At least 30 of these have been filed by the national broadcaster HRT.

Blazevic said the core purpose of the foundation was to give “first aid” to journalists and to other people whose rights have been violated.

He recalled that the foundation last week helped a high school student who was beaten by her father, who took the money that she had saved for a school trip. They gave funds to the girl, and will also help her mother pay for a lawyer.

“The goal is also to help journalists under charges; to cover court and attorneys’ costs because they are usually left to do it themselves. Even … their own [media houses] usually do not help them financially in any way during their [court] procedures,” Blazevic noted.

The target is to collect some 50,000 kunas [6,750 euros] for a start. More serious fundraising will be a long-term effort.

Blazevic said that no such fund exists now in Croatia, and, as far he knows, there is nothing similar in the European Union, either.

“A new EU budget is will soon be released, which will be considered during Croatia’s EU Presidency. So, Croatia will have the opportunity to give its voice,” he noted.

“Media freedom is one of the fundamental [European] values. [We will see whether] they recognize it as essential and allocate part of the funds for such needs, directly related to helping journalists,” he continued.

Solidarna has called on all people of goodwill with an awareness of the importance of civic solidarity to donate in support of journalists, victims of human rights violations, and women and children victims of domestic violence – in short, to all those “who need help now, and don’t have time to wait for the system to start functioning”.

Anja Vladisavljevic