ZAGREB, February 8, 2018 – Five Croatian dailies – Novi List, Jutarnji List, Večernji List, Slobodna Dalmacija and Glas Istre – on Wednesday warned the Social Democratic Party (SDP) Presidency that over the past two months they had been exposed to “systematic and growing pressure from the SDP against journalists who report about the party’s activities as well as editors, in a bid to influence the editorial polices of the biggest and most influential media outlets.”
“As the party’s highest body you must be aware that such a policy constitutes a major breach of the freedom of the press… guaranteed under Article 38 of the Constitution. The SDP has been conducting a campaign against the media by systematically sending denials of news articles that concern the SDP… and in doing so grossly violates provisions of the Media Act that guarantee the right to have published information corrected,” the papers’ editorial boards say in their letter, entitled “Editors’ answer to the SDP denials”.
The editors say that statements they received from the SDP, entitled ‘denial’ or ‘correction of information’, whether sent by the party leader or some local SDP official, in most cases lack information on the facts the party claims have been wrongly stated or misinterpreted and are rather comments on authors of articles concerning the SDP aimed at their professional discreditation.
“Articles that are not to the SDP and its leader’s liking are described as ‘untrue, ill-intended fabrications designed to harm the SDP and its president’ while unnamed sources that comment on the situation in the party and reveal information are labelled as ‘alleged anonymous sources’, an allusion that reporters are making them up.”
Most SDP reactions go as far as to claim that reporters’ only aim is to write negatively about the SDP and its leader Davor Bernardić, the dailies say.
They underline that in its denials and requests for corrections, the SDP reacts even to value judgements which journalists are entitled to in a specific journalistic form.
“Given the uniformity of reactions the SDP is sending to media outlets, this is apparently a systematic campaign aimed at exerting pressure on the media and influencing their editorial policy. It is primarily aimed at discrediting reporters who cover the SDP’s activities by describing them as incompetent, biased and malevolent… Hiring a law firm to send denials with a power of attorney signed by the SDP leader is a direct threat to editors that if they do not publish ‘corrections’ and ban undesirable reporters, they will end up in court faced with claims for damages,” the dailies’ editors say in the letter.
They remind the SDP leadership that with such conduct the party “is trampling on fundamental democratic principles and violating freedom of speech.”
“You have to be aware that in spite of this the media will continue reporting about the SDP and what is going on in the party. The SDP is the second biggest parliamentary party and the biggest opposition party, and all intra-party conflicts, relations between individual factions as well as party members’ views on the current leadership and SDP president Davor Bernardić are a matter of public interest. Citizens and voters have the right to know how the SDP functions from within just as they have the right to know about the SDP’s policies,” the editors note.
“The public has the right to know about the SDP’s attitude to the media and which instruments it uses to silence bearers of bad news and influence editorial policies. They should know that this is the same SDP that proclaims the freedom of expression to be its holy political goal… Such a party policy is insincere, hypocritical and deceives voters. It is reporters’ job to detect and reveal this, and they will continue to do so despite denials and pressures from the SDP,” the editors said in the letter.