International Press Freedom Delegation Concludes Trip to Croatia

By , 27 Jun 2016, 06:33 AM Politics
International Press Freedom Delegation Concludes Trip to Croatia Logo of the Croatian public broadcaster HRT. Photo: IPI.

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Public broadcasting independence, journalist safety and defamation laws among key concerns, according to the press release by the International Press Institute on June 25, 2016. The press release is published in full below.

A delegation of six press freedom organisations concluded a three-day mission to Croatia by calling on the country’s political leaders to guarantee the independence of the public broadcaster HRT as well as of the national electronic media regulator.

Members of the delegation said the next Croatian government should act swiftly to reform the current law governing HRT, which does not provide sufficient safeguards against undue political influence over the broadcaster’s operations and output. Delegates specifically highlighted as problematic the process for nominating HRT’s director-general via a parliamentary vote. Public service broadcasting should not be controlled by party politics.

Professional standards and a balanced approach to news and content at HRT will be tested in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled for September. The delegation underscored the need to ensure respect for European standards on the editorial independence of public broadcasters during this period.

In a meeting with the delegation on June 21, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović indicated she supported efforts to protect HRT’s independence. The broadcaster, long a model of professionalism in South-East Europe, has recently come under scrutiny after new leadership appointed by Croatia’s outgoing governing coalition reassigned some 70 journalists and editors in key positions, according to station employees and journalist groups. While staff restructuring had also occurred with previous government changes – a pattern the delegation said should stop – the speed and breadth of the changes suggests a political motivation at odds with the mission of a public-service broadcaster.

In addition to the audience with Grabar-Kitarović, the delegation met with Acting Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović, who insisted that there were “no limitations” on media freedom in Croatia, despite increasing international concern.

Led by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), the delegation met numerous representatives of government, media, journalists’ associations and civil society to ascertain the situation of media freedom in the newest EU member state amid an atmosphere of political polarisation and what some view as a rise in nationalist sentiment. Croatia is currently governed by a caretaker cabinet after a troubled five-month old coalition between the right-leaning HDZ and the centrist Most party collapsed earlier this month.

The mission met directly with HRT representatives as well as RTL Televizija, one of the country’s two main private broadcasters; journalists or editors from various media outlets including Index.hr, Jutarnji list, Nacional, Novi list, Direktno.hr, H-Alter.org and the HINA national news agency; and with the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND), the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (TUCJ) and a recently formed splinter group, the Association of Croatian Journalists and Publicists (HniP).

Following a meeting with Mirjana Rakić, president of the Croatian Electronic Media Council (EMC), delegates also expressed deep concern over the Croatian government’s failure to publicly stand behind Rakić after she and the EMC were the target of a protest earlier this year in which participants – including the deputy speaker of Parliament – hurled hate-filled slogans and symbols alluding to Rakić’s Serbian ethnicity. The protest was a response to an EMC decision taking a broadcaster off-air for three days for violating hate-speech rules. Rakić later resigned, although Parliament has not acted to accept her resignation.

Mission participants also expressed dissatisfaction with the failure of Croatian authorities to fully investigate physical attacks on prominent journalists and hold the perpetrators accountable. These include the 2008 beating of Jutarnji list journalist Dušan Miljuš and a vicious 2015 assault on award-winning reporter Željko Peratović.

“It is unacceptable for violent acts against journalists to be met with impunity in an EU member state,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said. “We are disturbed by the lack of progress in these and other cases and call on the authorities to send a signal that violence against the media will not be tolerated.”

The delegation plans to publish a full report on the mission and on key challenges facing freedom of expression and media freedom in Croatia around the end of July. New elections in the country are scheduled to be held in early September.

In addition to SEEMO, the delegation also includes representatives of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders Austria (RSF).

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  • The roads are wet and slippery in Lika mountain area and in Dalmatia. Rock and land sliding is possible on the DC1 state road through Lika as well as on the DC8 Adriatic road. Traffic is dense in cities and on their detour roads. During the day difficulties can be expected in roadwork areas. Tonight (27 February) 7pm-6am traffic is suspended on the A6 Rijeka-Zagreb motorway between Delnice and Oštrovica junctions in direction Rijeka, detour: DC3/DC501 state roads. In Učka tunnel in Istria one lane is free only every night 10pm-6am till 3/4 March. Drivers are invited to keep distance and to adjust the speed to road conditions. The headlights have to be on during the day as well. One lane is free only/traffic is flowing in reduced lanes on the following motorways:-A1 Zagreb-Split-Ploče at Božići viaduct in direction Split, between Novigrad and Karlovac junctions 42nd-40th km in direction Zagreb, at Rašćane viaduct in direction Dubrovnik; -A3 Bregana-Lipovac between Kutina and Novska junctions 118th-121st km in both directions; -A4 Zagreb-Goričan at Kraljevečki Novaki junction 93rd-94th km in both directions till 13 March; -A4 Zagreb-Goričan in Hrastovec tunnel in both directions 1-11 March; -A6 Rijeka-Zagreb at Svilno viaduct 78th-80th km between Orehovica and Čavle junctions in each direction till 1 June, in Vršek tunnel in direction Zagreb; -Rijeka detour road in the exit lane of Rujevica junction in direction Rupa till 16 March; -A8 in Istria on the section Lupoglav-Učka tunnel. Due to winter driving conditions there is a traffic ban on freight vehicles with trailers and all other vehicles have to use the winter equipment in Lika mountain area on the DC42 at Poljanak. Due to roadworks traffic is suspended: -on the DC1 state road in Lučko and Stupnik (Zagreb); -on the DC8 Adriatic road at Posedarje till 10 April; -on the DC6 state road, section Glina-Dvor border crossing till 15 March, detour: Glina (DC37)-Petrinja-Hrvatska Kostajnica-Dvor; -on the DC34 Valpovo-Josipovac state road; -on the DC206 Valentinovo-Petrovsko state road; -on the DC228 Jurovski Brod-Ozalj-Karlovac state road at Ozalj. Traffic is regulated by traffic signals/one road lane is free only:-on the DC1 state road at Tušilović; -on the DC1 Sinj-Klis Grlo state road at Dicmo; -on the DC8 Adriatic road on the section Kaštel Stari-Kaštel Gomilica, at Podstrana, on the section Zaton Doli-Bistrina, at Srebreno; -on the DC66 Pula-Most Raša state road; -on the DC75 Poreč detour road, section Vrvari-Bijela; -on the DC303 Rovinjsko Selo-Brajkovići-Kurili state road. 15 November 2016-15 April 2017 winter equipment is mandatory on the winter sections of the state roads in Croatia (it includes four winter tyres or four summer tyres with chains ready for use).
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  • In outbound freight traffic there are delays at Pasjak. Due to roadworks at Županja and Slavonski Brod border crossings delays can be expected. At Harmica border crossing traffic is allowed for vehicles up to 7,5 tonnes only.
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  • Ferries operate regularly. 9404 Zadar-Rivanj-Sestrunj-Zverinac-Božava-Brbinj catamaran does not stop at Božava port. Today (27 February) Vis-Split ferry departs Vis port at 4.30pm (instead at 3.30pm) and Split port at 7pm (instead at 6.30pm).
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