HRT Public Broadcaster Files Lawsuits against Its Own Journalists

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ZAGREB, December 28, 2018 – The Croatian Journalists Association’s (HND) leadership on Friday condemned in the strongest terms the latest suits by the HRT public broadcaster’s management against the HND and HRT journalists for 500,000 kuna in damages over their public statements, calling it “an unprecedented attack on the work and activity of the HND branch, intimidation of journalists and attempted financial attack on the HND.”

HND president Hrvoje Zovko, an HRT journalist and editor, said at a press conference that HND journalists and its HRT branch recently received suits in which the HRT claimed damages for “gross violations of reputation, honour and name.”

One of the suits was filed over a statement by the HND’s HRT branch of September 11 in which the branch journalists distanced themselves from then current scandals on the HRT, including the sale of FIFA World Cup tickets. The HRT management demands 200,000 kuna in damages from the HND and 50,000 kuna from the president of the HND’s HRT branch, Sanja Mikleušević Pavić.

Zovko said that in two other suits the HRT claimed from him 250,000 kuna as compensation for the damage he allegedly caused the HRT with his public statements after being fired from the HRT and before being rehired, only to be immediately suspended.

“As far as I know, this is the only case in which a public television is suing a professional association… In the HND, we see this as an attack on and as financial intimidation and destruction of us and the HND. This is an unprecedented form of censorship and pressure by people running Croatian Radio-Television.”

Zovko said the HND had already notified Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and that they would soon notify all relevant Croatian and European institutions as well as international professional organisations.

“This aggression by the HRT and the people who run it should be ended. They are punishing the professional association whose job it is to question the work on the media scene and are suing the people who are pointing to the erosion of programmes and irregularities on the HRT, and I don’t know that anyone has been held to account for the omissions in programmes or the revisionist statements on the HRT. They can’t sue us as much as we can warn about the irregularities on the HRT,” said Zovko.

Mikleušević Pavić said citizens paid subscription and had the right to know how their money was being spent and about the irregularities in the HRT’s operations.

“It’s certainly not in the interest of Prime Minister Plenković, as a pro-European politician, that such images of extreme repression against journalists on the public broadcaster are going out. This is just the continuation of repression against undesirable journalists on the HRT, which was followed by financial penalisation. This is also an act of destruction of the HRT’s credibility, reputation and honour, but we believe it’s also a shameful attempt at intimidation.”

She spoke of the HRT’s omissions, the exodus of its journalists, and its lawsuits against journalists from other media who pointed to irregularities and programme omissions.

HND vice president Denis Romac said the latest suits were the grossest attack on journalists and the HND. He said the Programmes Council recently rejected an HRT work programme for 2019 and that this confirmed that the HRT’s programming had already collapsed.

Another HND vice president, Slavica Lukić, said international professional organisations had already warned about the erosion of the HRT’s reputation and programmes.

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