Newspaper Publishers Protest Court Rulings against Media Outlets

By 7 January 2019

ZAGREB, January 7, 2019 - Representatives of newspaper publishers at the Croatian Employers Association (HUP) on Monday expressed concern about a recent streak of cases in which courts ruled against a number of media outlets, ordering them to pay fines for cases of mental anguish, and described the rulings as legally unfounded and unfair and called on the relevant institutions to embark on legislative changes that would define clear and predictable rules for the publishing industry.

Newspaper publishers believe that the number of rulings against media outlets as well as the lack of uniform legal standards on which they are based, pose a serious threat to freedom of expression and media freedoms and that by generating legal insecurity, they jeopardise the stable operation of newspaper publishers, thus restricting their entrepreneurial freedom.

They recall that a few days ago a Croatian satirical portal was fined over a satirical article, with the judge deciding that assertions that are factually incorrect cannot be considered as satire.

A broader application of such a standard would in the future make any satirical text actionable, newspaper publishers warn.

They also recall a case where the plaintiff was given high damages for mental anguish suffered due to claims made in an authorised interview in which the plaintiff was not mentioned at all, as well as a case when a web portal was fined for reporting about a public protest and carrying statements made at the rally.

Newspaper publishers also warn of fines being excessive and of claims for damages being filed against different media outlets concerning the same mental anguish.

Pointing to the profile of plaintiffs, newspaper publishers say that even though western legal standards have for decades raised the threshold of acceptable public criticism of state officials and holders of public offices, in Croatia the number of cases where plaintiffs are senior members of political parties or the judiciary has been growing. This has the effect of institutional censorship and gives rise to suspicion about conflict of interest, newspaper publishers have said.

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