EFJ Demands Croatia take ‘Concrete Steps’ to Protect Journalists

General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists has urged Croatia's PM to take concrete steps to ensure media freedom in the country, after a major journalist protest on Saturday over the volume of lawsuits against them.

Journalists’ House in Zagreb. Photo: Anja Vladisavljevic

General Secretary of the European Federation of Journalists, Ricardo Gutierrez, demanded on Tuesday for Croatia to “take concrete steps to limit abusive prosecutions against journalists,” in a response to Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic’s statements a day prior that he doesn’t see a problem with media freedom in his country.

Plenkovic’s comment came after several hundred journalists rallied in Zagreb on Saturday to protest the wave of lawsuits filed against journalist and media in Croatia.

In a statement published on the EFJ’s website, Gutierrez said: “We don’t care about Mr Plenkovic’s impressions and feelings. We do not expect feelings, but actions.”

He demanded for Plenkovic to answer a series of questions about the state of media freedom in the countr he leads, including:

“Is it normal, in a European Union country, for journalists to be the target of no less than 1,163 legal proceedings? Is it normal for the public broadcaster to use public money to intimidate journalists through 36 lawsuits? Is it normal that the level of independence of the Croatian broadcaster’s management and financing is worse than in Turkey or Serbia?”

According to the Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA), more than 1,500 trials against journalists or media outlets are currently ongoing in Croatia. At least 30 of these have been filed by the national broadcaster HRT – including against its own employees.

Commenting on Saturday’s journalist protest PM Plenkovic claimed that the problem started when CJA President Hrvoje Zovko “almost physically attacked the editor of Croatian Radio-Television”.

His statement was referring to a quarrel between Zovko and Katarina Perisa Cakarun, editor of HRT’s Information Media Service, which erupted in September after Zovko announced he would resign from his position as executive editor of the HRT4 channel.

The prime minister said on Monday that he has read the journalists’ demands, handed to the government during Saturday’s protest, saying he will ask to speak with the Minister of Culture, to see if there are any elements for better financing of profit and non-profit media, if there be better.”

The Croatian Journalists’ Association Executive Board also dismissed on Monday Plenković’s statement about HND president Hrvoje Zovko, noting that the prime minister was denying that critical journalism in Croatia was exposed to pressure and was trying to discredit Zovko.

“The prime minister is forgetting that an attempt by Zovko to attack his editor was never established, and it is not true, as Plenkovic claims, that ‘the problem started’ with that case,” the CJA said.

Anja Vladisavljevic