ZAGREB, January 3, 2019 – The Croatian public broadcaster HRT on Wednesday dismissed claims it was denying freedom of thought and practising censorship, and insisted that it “honours constitutional values that guarantee freedom of expression and thought.”
The HRT responded to statements by Hrvoje Zovko, a Croatian Television (HTV) editor who serves as president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND), and Sanja Mikleušević Pavić, the head of the HND branch at HTV, saying that it had brought defamation charges against the two for stating that the HRT was practising censorship even though they knew this was not true. The company also filed a lawsuit demanding that the two return a laptop and other equipment issued to them for work purposes.
The broadcaster noted that in its report of January 2018, in the preparation of which the HND was involved, the South-East Europe Media Organisation (SEEM) did not mention any violations of freedom of the press by the Croatian Radiotelevision, but on the contrary SEEM found that progress had been made since its previous reports.
The Croatian Radiotelevision said that its financial situation was stable and that, following government guidelines, it had reduced losses, regained banks’ trust, considerably reduced interest rates and the costs of external contractors, and increased work efficiency.
Citing data from the European Broadcasting Union, the broadcaster said that it ranks among the most viewed public television stations in Europe.
The HRT’s reaction came after the HND leaders last week strongly condemned the lawsuits brought by the HRT management against the HND and HRT journalists. The HRT seeks over 500,000 kuna (67,500 euro) in damages because of their public statements. The HND described the Croatian Radiotelevision’s move as “an unprecedented attack on the work and activity of the HND branch, intimidation of the journalists and an attempted financial attack on the HND.”
A Slovenian member of the European Parliament, Tanja Fajon, described the HRT’s latest act against the HND as yet another unacceptable attack on freedom of the press, while the Western Balkans platform for media freedom and safety of journalists, which represents over 8,000 members, strongly condemned the HRT’s move and demanded that it withdraw its lawsuits and stop exerting pressure on the HND, describing such actions as unacceptable and unworthy of a public service broadcaster.
More news on the Croatian Radiotelevision can be found in our Business section.