Although those in power often claim there is no censorship in Croatia’s media sphere, more than two in three journalists answered in the affirmative when asked if they were exposed to pressure due to their stories in the past two years, GONG says on its website.
Also, two in three respondents said they witnessed pressure on their newsrooms by power-wielders, media owners, and their own outlet’s marketing departments.
Thirty experienced journalists and editors from the public broadcaster, the most influential private TV stations, print media and web portals were contacted at the start of the survey and 23 responded, says GONG executive director Oriana Ivković Novokmet.
Almost half the respondents said that in the last two years they were banned from tackling certain subjects, most often due to advertisers but also during the 2020 parliamentary election campaign. Besides big advertisers, the untouchables included members of the ruling party, ministers, the prime minister, as well as opposition politicians.
Stories are most often stopped due to advertisers, but only a few respondents said attempts were made to influence their work while preparing and researching a story. Such suggestions came most often from their editors or their outlet’s owners. According to one respondent, politicians and PR agents also suggested the direction a story should take.
With increasing frequency, journalists are asked to write articles commissioned by editors based on theses given in advance, often incorrect ones, one journalist said. “We are also asked to write PR and native articles, both economic and political ones, often covertly. Refusal to write an article in the way requested can mean, and often means, termination, and it almost certainly means degradation.”
The findings of this pilot survey show that there is censorship in Croatia’s media sphere and that newsroom censorship mechanisms are increasingly present, GONG says, adding that it’s necessary to continue to look into this matter as well as persist in eliminating all forms of censorship and pressure on journalists and the media.
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