Croatia Marks 20th Anniversary of Protests for Independent Media

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In 1996, more than 100,000 people gathered in support of Radio 101.

The twentieth anniversary of protests for Radio 101, which took place in 1996 at Ban Jelačić Square in Zagreb, was marked on Thursday evening with a multimedia event at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The event was attended by Prime Minister Andrej Plenković who said that “it is important for freedom of the media to be at the forefront, in line with European standards”, reports Jutarnji List on November 25, 2016.

The event organized by the Nacional weekly and Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) began with the screening of “Independence Day of Radio 101”, a documentary directed by Vinko Brešan. In a speech after the screening, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic said that “gathering of 100,000 people at Josip Jelačić Square for such a rally will probably never happen again during my lifetime”.

Chairman of Parliamentary Committee on the Media Jasen Mesić (HDZ) opened an exhibition of photographs about the protest and stressed that his Parliamentary Committee would implement European standards in media freedom.

Editor-in-chief of Radio 101 in 1996 Zrinka Vrabec-Mojzeš commented on today’s media freedom. “The media is again in a difficult position, pressured by authorities and politics. Many journalists are out of work and it is as difficult as it was earlier. It is unfortunate that there is no such mass of people ready to stand again for media freedom”, said Vrabec-Mojzeš.

HND President Saša Leković said that the protest against the shutdown of Radio 101 sends a clear message even now, twenty years after it took place. “I hope that many will see the documentary on the protest for Radio 101. This is a story about resistance to stubborn militant authorities which did not want the media to work in the public interest. This is a reminder of what happened, but also a warning to those who would try to do what the government twenty years ago tried to do”, said Leković.

The multimedia event was attended by many of the participants of the events in 1996, including then Interior Minister Ivan Jarnjak, who disobeyed then President Tuđman’s order to prevent the protest from taking place, as well as former President Stjepan Mesić and former Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor.

The event marked the twentieth anniversary of the greatest civil protest for freedom of the media in Croatia, held on 21 November 1996 at the main square in Zagreb. The protest was a reaction against the decision of then Telecommunications Council which, under the control of the government, decided to revoke the broadcast permit for Radio 101, one of a few independent electronic media which criticized the authoritarian rule of the time and violations of civil and media freedom. This decision led to the discontent and rebellion of citizens across the political and ideological spectrum.

“About 120,000 citizens with candles in their hands gathered at Ban Jelačić Square in support of Radio 101. They proved the power and influence of a relatively small media outlet, if it truly represents the interests of citizens”, stressed the organizers of the event. The protest was successful and Radio 101 was allowed to continue broadcasting.


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