NGOs Warn State Remains Silent about Pressures on Journalists

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ZAGREB, November 6, 2018 – The presidents of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) and the Croatian Journalists’ Union (SNH), Hrvoje Zovko and Anton Filić respectively, sharply condemned on Monday the latest pressures on HND and reporters, stressing that the main problem was the state’s silence about the increasingly frequent threats and pressures on reporters as well as about the increasing devastation of the media scene.

“The main problem is the silence of the state, which is allowing all this to occur because, since entering the European Union, the state has not shown any interest in the status of reporters and their profession. Silence to the many threats, and we have recorded about fifty threats and attacks on journalists, makes the state complicit in the entire story,” Zovko underscored.

He added that in many cases reporters are being persecuted “because attackers and those threatening reporters are not being punished,” and that the HND would alarm its international partners and the international public of the situation.

Zovko commented on a recent court decision in an almost 25-year-long dispute under which the HND is obliged to pay about 350,000 euro to cover the debts of a defunct company. “This is about, to put it mildly, an unusual suit by an unusual creditor and the inefficiency of Croatia’s judiciary, with the HND at the receiving end. We will use all legal means available to come out of this situation because HND’s collapse in a situation in which our profession is devastated would be a disastrous message,” Zovko said and underscored that this enforcement notice is a form of pressure on HND and the media scene.

He assessed the situation in the media to be disastrous, underscoring that the HRT public broadcaster is not fulfilling its function and its programme is deteriorating, along with threats of dismissing reporters and “all those who think differently.” He added that the situation in private media companies isn’t much better, noting that some print media “use the services of PR agencies to promote political groups and neglect public interest.”

Filić said that it was worrying that attacks and threats against journalists were going unpunished, which shows that attackers have “protection by some mob, the judiciary or some politicians.” He underscored that material pressure is also being exerted through non-existing collective agreements, deteriorating material rights for journalists and pressure on shop stewards.

HND secretary-general Ema Tarabochia said the “systematic problem is that prosecutors and the police do not conduct sufficiently thorough investigations and cases lie at the bottom of someone’s drawer for years.”

Vojislav Mazzoco, who writes for the Index portal, spoke about the threats he received and reported to the authorities, including from War Veterans Minister Tomo Medved, who recently apologised via his attorney. “Tomo Medved isn’t the problem but the hyenas who, after his threats, declared open season on me,” he said, referring to “various obscure papers, media and portals.”

As a positive example, he mentioned a recent sentence pending appeal against a person who had threatened him and was given six months in prison, with two years’ probation. “Maybe that’s because we are making a racket and the judiciary has decided to react a little better,” Mazzoco concluded.

To read more about the position of journalists in Croatia, click here.


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