Croatian Journalists and PM Continue Argument about Media Freedom

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ZAGREB, March 5, 2019 – The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) Executive Board on Monday dismissed in the strongest terms Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s statement about HND president Hrvoje Zovko, noting that Plenković was denying that critical journalism in Croatia was exposed to pressure and was trying to discredit Zovko.

Commenting on a reporters’ protest against censorship held this past Saturday, PM Plenković said on Monday that the problem started when HND leader Zovko almost physically attacked the editor of the Croatian Television (HTV) news department, Katarina Periša Čakarun, but that he did not hear any of the protesters mention that or show any solidarity with the editor in question. Plenković also said that Zovko himself had sued other reporters.

“Reducing the many problems that concern the erosion and destruction of journalism – of which the HND-led protest of last Saturday warned – to the case of Hrvoje Zovko, and doing it in such a way to distort facts concerning the circumstances of Zovko’s resignation as an HRT editor, is unworthy of a prime minister,” the HND Executive Board said in a statement.

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

“We would like to remind the Prime Minister that Hrvoje Zovko is only one of the 36 reporters and media outlets the HRT is currently suing because they spoke about the situation at the public broadcaster and whose written explanation of the reasons for his resignation as editor, in which he warned of censorship and the technical and personnel erosion of the HRT’s news department, the HRT management is persistently trying to reduce to a personal dispute. The Prime Minister’s claims, which go in the same direction and are based on one-sided and incorrect information and have been made before the court has ruled on the matter, are not only irresponsible, they are also ill-intentioned,” the HND said.

It notes that the prime minister’s equating lawsuits which Zovko filed against hate-mongering to which he was exposed in obscure right-wing media and the HND’s well-founded warnings about hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed to prevent critical journalism, bears witness to his capacity to understand the role of journalism as a guardian of social freedoms and democracy.

“It is extremely worrying when the prime minister of an EU member-country belittles a justified reporters’ protest and its reasons, the more so as he does it using the arguments of the HRT management, which is suing reporters and the journalists’ association, and using the language of commentators on obscure right-wing web portals,” reads the HND Executive Board’s statement, signed by vice-presidents Slavica Lukić and Denis Romac.

More news on the media freedom in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.


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