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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Croatia Traffic Info

  • Due to a traffic accident on the A3 Bregana-Lipovac motorway traffic is proceeding slowly in a 1 km long queue at Križ junction in direction Zagreb. The A1 Zagreb-Split-Ploče and A6 Rijeka-Zagreb motorways, the Pag bridge, as well as Dr. Franjo Tuđman bridge in Dubrovnik are open to all vehicle categories. Due to strong wind there is a traffic ban on double-decker buses, campervans and motorcycles on the following sections: -on the A7 motorway between Draga and Šmrika, -on the Krk-bridge, -on the DC8 Adriatic road between Bakar and Novi Vinodolski. There is an additional ban on delivery vehicles and vehicles with covered cargo area on the DC8 Adriatic road between Novi Vinodolski and Sveta Marija Magdalena. A1 MOTORWAY ZAGREB-SPLIT-PLOČE - On the A1 motorway there is a 4 km long queue at Lučko toll station in direction Zagreb. - Traffic is proceeding with difficulties between Posedarje junction and Sveti Rok tunnel in direction Zagreb. - Due to a traffic accident between Novigrad junction and Draganić service area traffic is proceeding slowly in direction Zagreb. A2 MOTORWAY ZAGREB-MACELJ There is a 2,5 km long queue on the A2 Zagreb-Macelj motorway at Trakošćan toll station in direction Slovenia. A3 MOTORWAY BREGANA-LIPOVAC There is a 2 km long queue on the A3 Bregana-Lipovac motorway at Bregana toll station in direction Slovenia. A7 MOTORWAY RUPA-DIRAČJE At Rupa border crossing in direction Slovenia there is a 700 m long queue. A8/A9 MOTORWAY IN ISTRIA - There is a 5 km long queue at the border crossings Kaštel und Plovanija in direction Slovenia. - There is a 2 km long queue at Učka tunnel in direction Rijeka. KRK BRIDGE Traffic is very dense on the Krk bridge: 3 km towards the island, 4 km in direction mainland. Roads are wet and slippery countrywide. Rockfalls and landslides are possible. Drivers are advised to adjust the driving speed to the road conditions and to keep the safety distance. Strong wind is blowing on the A1 motorway between Sveti Rok tunnel and Božići viaduct. The queues: on the A1 Zagreb-Split-Ploče there is some queueing traffic between Karlovac and Lučko in direction Zagreb at the toll station Lučko 1 km in direction Zagreb, an Demerje 500 m on the A2 Zagreb-Macelj at the toll station Trakošćan the queue is 3 km long in direction Slovenia at the border crossings Kaštel and Plovanija in Istria 7 km queueing traffic towards Slovenia on the A7 Rupa-Diračje on the state road towards the border crossing Pasjak 4 km The roads are occasionally wet and slippery in the northwestern parts of the country and in the Croatian Littoral. Driving restrictions: freight vehicles exceeding 7,5 t - Sunday, 20th of August; 12AM - 11PM Sections of the roads closed due to roadworks: -the DC29 from Novi Golubovec (DC29, DC35) -the DC502 Smilčić-Pridraga state road -ŽC5042 Višnjan-Tićan. Traffic is regulated by traffic signals/one road lane is free only: -on the DC1 state road in Knin, on the section Sučević-Otrić in Otrić -on the state road DC2 in Vukovar, (Kudeljarska and Priljevo street) -on the state road DC66 Pula- Raša bridge -on the state road DC206 Valentinovo-Petrovsko. With the sunny and dry weather, more and more cyclists and motorists are on the roads. Other vehicles (such as cars or trucks) should look carefully for bicyclists before turning left or right, merging into bicycle lanes and opening doors next to moving traffic. Check your mirrors and be aware of blind spots before turning. While at a stop sign or red light, make a complete stop in order to let bikers pass, and check for unseen riders. Respect the right of way of bicyclists because they are entitled to share the road with you. Cyclists are not immune to traffic violations: pay attention to red lights and practice arm signaling!
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  • Due to heavy traffic during the tourist season longer wait times are possible on most border crossings with Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia and Montenegro.
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  • The catamaran lines Mali Lošinj-Cres-Rijeka and Pula-Mali Lošinj-Zadar are suspended due to bad weather conditions.
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