MOST Demands Božo Petrov to Be Included in Prime Ministerial Debate

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Croatian Radio Television accuses MOST of interfering in its editorial independence.

MOST announced on Tuesday that the Croatian Radio Television (HRT), with its decision to organize a debate between presidents of HDZ and SDP, had violated democratic standards and demonstrated that it was not working in the public interest, but in the interests of promoting the political elite, reports Večernji List on August 10, 2016.

“After the official announcement that on Friday HRT will organize a debate between the presidents of the two parties for whom the state budget is a cash machine, for whom public institutions are private businesses, and for whom national broadcaster is a megaphone for launching propaganda that keeps them in power, MOST wants to point out that HRT is being used for promotion of the ‘two largest political parties in Croatia’”, said MOST spokesman Nikola Grmoja in a statement.

“It is a shame that, before the official start of the election campaign, in violation of clear rules, they organize a debate of selected parties that have previously appointed HRT directors general and editors. We hope that the HRT leadership did not make this decision in order for the political elite to extended their terms in office at managerial positions”, said Grmoja.

Croatian Radio Television rejected MOST’s accusations and called on all political actors to respect the media freedom. HRT added that the public certainly recognized the importance of a debate between presidents of the two parties, adding that people wanted to hear their opinions on how to improve social, political and economic situation in the country. HRT said that, after the election campaign officially begins, it would organize debates among all the candidates and political parties whose lists in relevant polls reach at least four percent of support in any parliamentary constituency.

The debate between HDZ president Andrej Plenković and SDP president Zoran Milanović will take place on Friday evening. It will be the first such debate between presidents of the two largest Croatian political parties since 2003, when then party leaders, Ivo Sanader and Ivica Račan, debated ahead of parliamentary elections. Such debates are more common when it comes to presidential elections, while ahead of parliamentary elections HRT usually broadcasts debates with more parties which cover individual topics or individual parliamentary constituencies. SDP president Milanović has demanded such debates to take place ever since he became the leader of the opposition in 2007, but successive HDZ presidents would always refuse to participate. Plenković, who was elected as HDZ president in July, is the first who accepted his invitation for a debate.

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