A general view of the newsroom of the Washington Post. Photo: EPA/Michael Reynolds
Croatian Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic on Thursday said he would consider changing the police code of conduct, or the law, if police mistreatment emerges after two policemen were accused of intimidating a reporter in her newsroom by demanding to see her ID.
“It is for me, as the minister, to do everything to ensure that citizens, in ordinary cases of police procedures, as in this case, don’t feel intimidated or under pressure,” Bozinovic said on Thursday.
Police in Croatia have the right to ask citizens to show their identification documents. But the Police Union says the action in this case was completely unnecessary, and was clearly intended to intimidate reporter Djurdjica Klancir, from Net.hr outlet.
After the incident, the union on Wednesday sought the resignation of Police Director Nikola Milina, who has denied putting political pressure on, or intimidating, the journalist.
“We have learned about the abuse of the police for political purposes and the impact on media freedom in the case of journalist Djurdjica Klancir, where the police was used the extended hand of politics to intimidate journalists,” the union said on Wednesday.
“It is clear that the police could have determined the data independently, by their own operational work and through the Interior Ministry Information System, where photographs of all Croatian citizens, including journalist Djurdjica Klancir, are stored,” the union added.
Concerned about police visit to media @Nethr #Croatia, to verify identity and home address of journalist Đurđica Klancir; related to potential private defamation lawsuit filed against her by a politician. This can be seen as pressure on journalists & should not become practice.
— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) 7. ožujka 2019.
Klancir posted about the incident on Facebook on Tuesday, saying that two police officers came to her newsroom and demanded to see her ID.
They said they were acting on the request of police in the town of Sisak where a lawyer intended to file a lawsuit against her.
The lawyer had been hired by Ivo Zinic, head of Sisak County and a member of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ.
She had previously published articles about nepotism and clientelism in the county.
Zinic has denied having anything to do with the police incident. On Wednesday, he told N1 regional television that he had not yet launched a lawsuit, but was preparing a case of slander.
Police on Tuesday said the case had been filed “on the proposal of the attorney of … the injured party, requesting the release of her data and determination of its identity, in order to launch a private lawsuit”.
Asked about the case, HDZ Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic said he had only just learned about the matter.
“I learned about it today, as you did, when it was announced,” he told reporters on Wednesday. He said he did not know what might have motivated Zinic to file charges against Klancir.
The incident has come at a sensitive time, however. Reporters and media outlets staged a protest in Zagreb last Saturday about threats to media freedom, which they blame mainly on the large number lawsuits, political pressures, threats and advertisers’ demands.
The Croatian Journalists Association CJA/HND on Wednesday condemned the police visit to the newsroom, calling it “a blatant form of political and police pressure on journalist Djurdjica Klancir”.