HND, SNH Propose Urgent Measures for Saving Journalism

Total Croatia News

ZAGREB, April 10, 2020 – The Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) and the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (SNH) on Friday proposed urgent measures for saving journalism, saying the government did not recognise problems in the media in the third package of COVID-19 measures and that journalism was completely ignored.

“The erosion of media equals the erosion of democracy; the media sector is in existential danger. Since the beginning of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, more than 85% of journalists and other part timers or freelancers in media have lost some or all of their business engagements, and full-time employees in a number of media companies have had their salaries reduced,” the HND and the SNH said in a joint press release.

In their appeal to the government, they note that these are nor normal times and that a wave off layoffs in journalism would follow as well as shutdowns of media outlets. They emphasise that the government should implement special measures aimed at journalists and the media, and proposed seven short-term measures.

First of all, any form of financial incentive, help, and benefits for media companies should be firmly linked with the obligation to ensure that there are no layoffs or terminations of cooperation with part timers and freelancers during the crisis for at least one year after using the state’s help.

Also, financial benefits for owners of media companies should be firmly bound to their obligation not to terminate full-time employees or reduce their wages and other benefits, according to the proposed measures. “Funds granted by the state should be spent for the specified purpose. The crisis cannot be a cover for the media companies to start a new wave of layoffs and to bring down labour costs in the already underpaid and devastated journalist profession.”

They also propose increasing public funding for the media via a crisis fund which would provide HRK 30 million for journalism. The fund would ensure quality work by 300 journalists from non-profit and local media to the end of this year.

For those media outlets established by the state or regional and local authorities, the HND and the SNH propose using government measures in proportion with the commercial income generated by the media outlets in question.

The HND and the SNH also propose that HRK 4,000 per month be paid into the accounts of part time journalists for the next three months, provided that their tax returns prove that they did not have any income in 2020. Also, in case of illness, they should receive compensation in the amount of at least 70% of their monthly income.

They propose that the grant allocated from the European Social Fund for the “Media for the Community” programme, worth HRK 15 million, be immediately distributed, and that tenders for the second phase of the same programme should be invited immediately afterwards, for an additional HRK 15 million.

As for long-term measures, they propose establishing a public fund for journalism, making donations and subscriptions to domestic media tax-deductible, and implementing measures for supporting media associations. The state has reacted appropriately to the health crisis for now, and journalists play an important role in that, the appeal emphasised.

“Members of the National Civil Protection Authority thank us for a job well done on a daily basis. The job has its rules and material prerequisites necessary for high-quality reporting… The responsibility for the way journalism will look like in a couple of years is equally yours and ours. A destroyed media sector as a rule leads to a destroyed society,” the appeal reads.

The SNH and the HND warn about the catastrophic consequences in the media in the last two weeks, when only 15% of freelance journalists and part-time associates kept their engagements, and when the Croatian Radio Television (HRT) terminated its cooperation with most of the permanent part-time associates. Furthermore, they note that the HANZA media company also terminated cooperation with the majority of their permanent part-time associates, and that salaries have been halved in the Glas Istre newspaper and reduced in the Novi List newspaper. They added that salaries have also been reduced on the HRT and in HANZA without social dialogue.

The appeal points out the fact that Hina employees, following the devastating earthquake which destroyed the agency’s building, have been working in difficult conditions from home. They are trying to maintain the agency’s work, provide news and other content and fulfill the role of a public service.

“The government must provide Hina access to the measures, just as it has to urgently find new working facilities for the employees as well as rebuild and modernise the agency’s headquarters,” the HND and the SNH pointed out.

More news about journalism can be found in the Politics section.


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