ZAGREB, March 9, 2019 – After a meeting of expert task forces in the Interior Ministry and the Police Directorate over the case of reporter Đurđica Klancir, who was IDed by police at her workplace on Tuesday in relation to a private lawsuit against her, the ministry reiterated that no law was violated in that particular case, adding that after the adoption of amendments to the law on police affairs and jurisdiction, police official will be able to establish the identity of any person just by going through the ministry’s information system, without going in the field.
The interior ministry said that its task force has completed a draft bill in late 2018 and that public consultation ended on March 4, 2019.
National police director Nikola Milina on Friday once again said that the process of identifying Đurđica Klancir, a reporter for the Net.hr web portal, was lawful and that there had not been any political influence and that the “entire case,” emerged because Sisak police had requested the assistance of police at the Trešnjevka police station in Zagreb.
Carding the reporter in her newsroom led to suspicion of abuse of the police system and violation of the Constitution after Klancir posted on her Facebook profile that two police officers had come into her newsroom to card her, explaining that they were doing so at the request of Sisak police, who were requested to do so by an attorney of Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Ivo Žinić, a prominent Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) official, who is suing the reporter for defamation.
Asked to comment on the opinion of constitutional experts that the Constitution had been violated and whether he would step down if any irregularities were identified, Milina said that the “most important thing is that police officers act freely, independent of any political influence.”
“In this case the police acted routinely, the two police stations communicated mutually with each other,” Milina said. According to him, the objections are being collected and a meeting of the police directorate has been convened to analyse overall police practice. “The most important thing is that police officers act lawfully, regardless of who is in question, equally toward every citizen regardless of their profession,” Milina reiterated.
Responding to claims by journalists that attorneys have been claiming for days that they were never given that sort of police assistance as Žinić’s attorney was given, Milina said that police officers and police stations regularly provide attorneys with information, that is regular procedure.
“In this case the police officer at Sisak police station did not determine beyond doubt, I saw a lot of comments that he could have, however he did not determine that. He requested the assistance of police at the Trešnjevka police station in Zagreb and that resulted with this case,” Milina said.
Interior Minister Davor Božinović on Thursday said he had convened a meeting of top officials in the police directorate to inspect the existing rules in detail in this regard to see whether they can, or should be amended so that neither citizens nor police are found in a similar situation due to imprecise rules.
A police union on Friday once again called for Milina’s resignation and called him out for misinforming the minister.
Commenting on the case of reporter Klancir, Minister of the Interior Davor Božinović said on Thursday that if police conduct in the case should prove to be problematic, it was up to those in charge to deal with the problem and he announced possible changes to rules of police conduct or the police law if they proved not to be sufficiently clear.
“If the police officers acted lawfully, if their conduct was in line with professional rules, and if despite that there is a problem, it’s up to those in charge of the police system to deal with it. If the problem concerns insufficiently clear rules that were defined by the minister of the interior in 2010, then we can deal with it promptly by adopting certain changes, and I will sign them,” Božinović told Hina in Brussels where he was attending a meeting of the EU ministers of the interior.
He said that upon his return to Zagreb he would convene a meeting of the Police Directorate to discuss in detail existing rules and see what can or should be amended so that citizens as well as police officers do not find themselves in situations such as the one in question due to possibly unclear regulations. “If that requires changes to certain laws, we are authorised to launch a legislative procedure,” said the minister.
The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) has condemned the case as an act of political and police pressure” against the journalist and the Union of Police Officers has called on Božinović to replace national police director Nikola Milina over the case in which, it said, police were used for political purposes.
“This is not the first case where rules are interpreted differently. On the other hand, as minister I have to do my best for citizens not to feel intimidated or under pressure in cases of standard police conduct, as was this case,” said Božinović.
He said that the Police Directorate, in charge of police conduct, had established that police officers in the specific case had acted in line with the law. “But, if certain conduct, regardless of its lawfulness, can cause disputes of such proportions, we have to ask ourselves… what we can do to avoid them in the future,” said the minister.
“It is important that there is no hidden agenda, that police did not act on an order that would be outside the usual, legal procedure. The information I have received from the Police Directorate suggests exactly that… but I repeat, it is also our job to make laws and rules better, in the interest of all, and we will do it.”
The head of the parliamentary Domestic Policy and National Security Committee, Ranko Ostojić of the SDP party, told a press conference on Friday that the committee would call on the Interior Ministry to explain why the police went to the Net.hr newsroom to card one of its reporters, Đurđica Klancir, based on a request by an attorney representing Sisak-Moslavina County Prefect Ivo Žinić in a private defamation lawsuit against Klancir.
Ostojić, who referred to this as an example of abusing police authorities in an attempt to scare the reporter, expects the matter to be discussed by the committee next Wednesday as part of a debate on a bill of amendments to the Police Law,
Ostojić expressed his opinion that the draft amendments were further step in reducing the parliamentary surveillance of the police work.
“We had a serious case in which the police in trying to determine the identity of reporter Klancir, burst into her newsroom in such a way that is not appropriate for the police procedure,” the opposition MP insisted.
“Something that may be legal does not mean that it is not necessary to respect fundamental human rights prescribed by the Constitution and that is to apply those measures that are required to achieve a purpose that is lawful, because it is true that someone can seek information but the tactics used (In this case) were absolutely wrong,” Ostojić said.
More news on the media freedom in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.