Croatian Journalists to Protest Against Prosecution and Intimidation

On Saturday 2 March the Croatian Journalists' Association is holding a protest for freedom of journalism under the slogan "You hijacked media, we don't give journalism!"

The protest is being organised by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) to fight back against the huge number of lawsuits against journalists and media outlets, political pressures and pressures from the advertisers, threats to journalists, the endangerment of professional rights and standards, disrespect for media laws and the lack of serious media policy.

Croatian journalists being fined and intimidated

At least 1,160 court proceedings for crimes against honour and reputation are currently in progress against journalists and media outlets, with millions of kuna being claimed in damages. Croatian radiotelevision (HRT), which in theory is a public broadcaster, is funded from the state budget and has compulsory subscriptions, is suing 36 journalists and media outlets and is seeking more than 2.2 million kuna in damages.

Criminal law prescribes that journalists can be given fines equalling their entire annual salaries, even for the publication of accurate and truthful information. Criminal prosecutions are often used as a tool to intimidate journalists and to send them the message that they cannot report about certain topics.

Also, internal regulations at many media outlets forbid journalists from publicly talking about the pressures and limitations of journalistic freedom in their own field, unless they get the consent of their superiors. These types of regulations are unconstitutional.

Opposition politicians, civil society and celebrities show their support

According to HND, over the past 10 years, more than half of Croatian journalists have lost their jobs. It also says that three years ago the only institutional support for non-profit media was abolished, which resulted in about 200 journalists losing their jobs or engagements. The positions of those that remain are precarious.

In light of these serious concerns, HND has made eight demands before the protest:

  1. Stop using lawsuits as a means of intimidating journalists.
  2. Give protection to journalists who publicly report on the pressures they are exposed to.
  3. Ensure the depoliticisation of the Electronic Media Council.
  4. Remove the leadership of HRT and quickly change the act that regulates it.
  5. Ensure the implementation of the Media Act and the media statute.
  6. Prevent local police from pressuring media.
  7. Arrest and prosecute people who attack journalists.
  8. Encourage public support for quality journalism.

Numerous public figures, organisations and political groups support the protection of Croatian journalists. On 18 February a boycott of the HRT started, which was organised by 30 civil society organisations and was joined by celebrities and political parties.