Monday, 4 May 2020

HND: Ban on Appearance of SNH Leader Proves Censorship at HRT

ZAGREB, May 4, 2020 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) said on Sunday that the decision by the public television broadcaster to ban the leader of the Croatian Journalists' Union (SNH) from appearing in its popular Sunday talk show was confirmation of censorship at the HRT.

"The Croatian Journalists' Association strongly condemns the censorship move by the management of Croatian Radio and Television to ban the editor of 'Nedjeljom u 2' (Sundays at 2 o'Clock), Aleksandar Stanković, from hosting Maja Sever, an HRT journalist and president of the Croatian Journalists' Union, on his show on the World Press Freedom Day," the HND said in a statement,

The guest of Sunday's show was an independent member of Parliament, Marko Vučetić, who said that he had been invited instead of SNH leader Maja Sever, to which the show's host Aleksandar Stanković remarked that this was his own professional defeat and the defeat of the HRT.

"The fact that Maja Sever is not the guest on today's show is my professional defeat and I would also say the defeat of the organisation I work for. She was invited at the president of the Croatian Journalists' Union who last week discussed with the President of Croatia and the Minister of Culture the problem of freelance journalists in the present time of crisis and how to save them. I wasn't given the green light to host her. She was also invited as the recent recipient of the Pride of Croatia Award. The explanation was that she works here, with this show, and that it is not possible. I will persist in inviting her to this show because I believe that she should be a guest," Stankovic said.

The HND said that this showed what the situation was like at the HRT where "freedom of speech has been restricted for a while now."

"The fact that Sever is also an HRT employee would be an honour to any well-regulated and free system, let alone one that is mostly funded by taxpayers' money, rather than an excuse for censorship," the HND said, recalling that Sever's popular programme "Croatia Live" was taken off the air without any explanation a few years ago.

The HND called on the "free-thinking public and everyone concerned to join us in efforts to free the HRT of the shackles of politics and interest groups so that it becomes an independent public service. The fee-paying citizens are entitled to that."

The HND said it continued to support the demand made at a large protest rally by journalists last year that the current HRT management should be replaced.

More news about the status of journalists can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Culture Ministry: Media Freedom Is Foundation of Every Democracy

ZAGREB, May 3, 2020 - On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, observed on 3 May, Croatia's culture ministry underscored the importance of freedom of media as a pillar of each democratic society which is supposed to provide conditions for unobstructed and safe work of journalists.

This year, World Press Freedom Day, is marked in specific circumstances in which we evaluate in a particular way the role of media in the society, the ministry said in a press release on Sunday.

Accurate, true and timely reporting in accordance with the media freedoms in times of crisis represents a pillar for each individual and for the whole society, the ministry said.

Without the role of independent and free media in checking the information and without trust which the general public has in the media system, one cannot imagine the prevention of dissemination of fake news and disinformation in the world full of easy to access information, the source of which is unknown, said the ministry.

Unfortunately, media outlets are hard hit by the consequences of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore the ministry will undertake additional measures to provide support to reporters, and publishers.

The ministry recalls on its web site that on 17 March, Croatia's government adopted a series of measures to assist the cultural sector in order to minimise the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are aware that the crisis has affected all levels of society – economic as cultural, public as private, so by various measures we try to cover all segments of the cultural sector, emphasizing above all the spirit of solidarity and community as the foundation of a just and democratic society," Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek was quoted as saying.

"The measures are intended to cover all artists and cultural workers who, in these moments of crisis which full reach is difficult to predict, lose their ability to act, and whose social and economic status is fundamentally threatened. We want to ease the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but also the recent earthquake that has additionally threatened the cultural and artistic field, one of the most vulnerable segments of the society,” said the minister.

More journalism news can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

SNH Calls on Journalists to Join "Five Minutes of Roaring Silence" Campaign

ZAGREB, May 3, 2020 - Ahead of the International Press Freedom Day, observed on May 3, the Croatian Journalists' Union (SNH) has called on its members to join the traditional campaign "Five Minutes of Roaring Silence" to draw attention to the importance of journalists and the media and to their worsening position.

In a statement on Saturday, the SNH highlighted the importance of workers' rights as prerequisites for freedom of the press. It said that the Labour Act was not respected in Croatia, that media workers were working without collective agreements and that employers were taking advantage of the lack of organisation to impose inappropriate working conditions and inadequate pay.

"We have brought the attention of the employers and the crisis management authorities to non-compliance with the Safety at Work Act because the employers did not provide the necessary protective equipment for our colleagues who report from the field risking their health, but we have also shown solidarity through the SNH by purchasing and distributing protective gear," the SNH said.

It said that media workers in several organisations had had their pay cut, in some cases without social dialogue. It cited a survey conducted by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) showing that nearly a third of freelance journalists had lost their jobs and only 15 percent of them had managed to keep their jobs.

More news about journalism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

905 Lawsuits Against Journalists and Media Outlets Active in Croatia

ZAGREB, May 2, 2020 - There are currently 905 active lawsuits against journalists and media outlets in Croatia, with plaintiffs seeking nearly HRK 68 million, the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) said on Friday, presenting the findings of a survey conducted among the media at the beginning of the year.

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, observed on May 3, the HND again warned about the problem of legal actions, the aim of which, it says, was to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with legal proceedings, which the HND considers a serious and dangerous mechanism that is threatening the freedom of the media.

"Although 905 lawsuits against journalists and media outlets is fewer than last year, the number shows that the judicial prosecution of media outlets and journalists in Croatia is still present. It should be noted that the actual number is higher since we received data from only 18 media outlets," HND president Hrvoje Zovko underscored.

The HND wants to warn the domestic and international public that lawsuits are most often a means of intimidating journalists and media outlets so that they would give up on serious investigative stories, Zovko said, adding that with high claims for damages plaintiffs seek to destroy journalists and media outlets financially.

The HND underscored that of the 23 media outlets who had been covered by the survey, there were 18 who had lawsuits against them for the violation of honour and reputation in their articles.

According to the HND's survey, the HANZA media company, the publisher of Jutarnji List daily, Slobodna Dalmacija daily and Sportske Novosti sports daily, is faced with most lawsuits, 502, averaging HRK 100,000. It is followed by Styria, the publisher of Večernji List daily and 24 Sata daily, with 107 lawsuits averaging about HRK 156,000 in damages.

Of the total of 905 lawsuits, 861 defamation actions taken against media outlets, their editor and journalists for articles and features, and currently there are 44 criminal lawsuits.

More news on media freedoms can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Milanović Endorses Proposals for Helping Journalists and Media

ZAGREB, April 23, 2020) - Croatian President Zoran Milanović on Thursday met with Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) president Hrvoje Zovko and the leader of the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists, Maja Sever, who informed him of their proposals for helping media outlets affected by the coronavirus crisis.

"President Milanovic supported the efforts of the HND and the SNH to help journalists and the media. He believes that it is important to protect and promote the autonomy of the media, especially in crisis situations," the Office of the President emphasised.

The HND and the SNH propose that the government adopt special measures for journalists and the media as they have not been covered by existing measures.

As key measures, they point to the establishment of an emergency fund to help journalists from non-profit and local media outlets, as well as freelance journalists, photo journalists, cameramen and other media workers. The fund would be managed by the Agency for Electronic Media.

They propose that media employees be protected by making state aid to publishers conditional on their not laying off employees or cutting their wages.

They also propose that the state give financial help to freelancers and that local media outlets too be eligible for government benefits.

More news about journalism can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Minister Says Number of Measures Adopted to Help Media Sector

ZAGREB, April 22, 2020 - Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek has said that a set of measures has been adopted in light of the current difficult situation in the media sector, and that media outlets and registered freelance reporters and artists were eligible for benefits offered by the employment service.

"The Electronic Media Council has made decisions on payments from the fund, agreement has been reached with the Music Copyright Society (ZAMP) regarding certain omissions connected with copyright royalties, and we have been in talks with Transmitters and Communications Ltd. on making certain concessions to commercial media," the minister said in an interview with Nova TV on Tuesday evening.

She said that she would meet with journalists' representatives Hrvoje Zovko and Maja Sever on Wednesday. "We have to be realistic and aware that the economic situation is serious and that unfortunately cuts will have to be made in many areas," she said.

"We appreciate the role of the media, we know how important they are, notably in the current situation, when they contribute to the fight against fake news, which is why we are turning to credible sources and serious mainstream media and we will do what we can with the measures to be taken next."

Obuljen Koržinek said that talks were under way on how to gradually start relaxing restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus epidemic but that in the field of culture, it was difficult to estimate how and when those restrictions would be lifted.

As for the project Rijeka - The European Capital of Culture 2020, the minister said that it was not a failed project, that she had discussed a number of scenarios with the mayor of Rijeka and the project manager and that decisions regarding the project would be made in line with government decisions to make sure at least some of its programme was implemented.

"It will not be possible to implement it in its current scope but culture must go on, both in good and in bad times, and the current situation is difficult, especially for performing arts," she said.

More media news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Only 15% of Freelancers in Croatian Media Sector Have Kept Jobs

ZAGREB, April 14, 2020 - One third of freelancers in the Croatian media sector have lost all their jobs since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, 26% have lost most of their jobs, and only 15% have kept their jobs, according to a survey by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (SNH).

"Two-thirds of the freelancers polled have lost all, most or half of their jobs since the beginning of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is alarming that almost a third of them have been left with no income at all. Only 14% of the respondents have managed to keep most of their jobs," the HND and SNH said in a press release.

Only a small group of freelancers in the media sector (15%) have managed to keep all of their previous business engagements.

The survey was conducted on a sample of 164 freelancers. A vast majority of the respondents cited journalism as the only and primary source of income. HND president Hrvoje Zovko pointed out that the survey results confirmed the importance of protecting those who feel the impact of the crisis first.

"We think that the government should agree to the demands made by the HND and SNH, which, among other things, aim to ensure measures for the protection of freelancers in the media sector," he emphasised.

SNH leader Maja Sever noted that journalists felt the impact of the crisis in less than a month from its start.

"We might not have been loud enough in warning that journalism needed help and that we needed job-saving measures, but only because we were busy. During this crisis, journalists have shown what an important role they play in our society. By providing citizens with timely and truthful information, they help the public receive important information on time, and accurate information can save lives today," Sever said.

More news about journalism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 13 April 2020

HND Asks State Leaders to Condemn Attacks on Journalists in Split

ZAGREB, April 13, 2020 - The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) said on Sunday it was shocked by this morning's attacks outside a church on Dalmatinski Portal journalist Živana Šušak Živković and N1 camerawoman Ivana Sivro, asking that the state leadership clearly condemn them.

The attacks occurred at about the same time, first on Šušak Živković, who was recording a gathering of believers at a church in a Split suburb, the HND said in a press release.

After she was roughly pushed away, which is clearly visible in a video, the mobile phone on which she was live streaming the gathering was destroyed, then her arm was pinned with the church door, for which she had to seek medical assistance and report the case to the police, the HND said.

Shortly thereafter, Sivro was attacked outside the same church and this too was recorded, the HND said, adding that a video shows a man in a car rushing towards the woman, slowing down and hitting her camera with his hand.

The HND noted that prior to the incidents the church priest, Josip Delaš, insulted the journalists and that according to witnesses, the crowd hurled insults at the two women as well.

The HND asked why the police were not there and why the law did not apply to all, saying it was difficult to believe that the police did not know that Easter Mass would be held in that church despite a ban because of COVID-19.

The HND said that although the attackers were arrested, Interior Minister Davor Božinović condemned the attack and the Split-Dalmatia Archdiocese distanced itself from Delaš, that was not enough.

The conduct of the Church in recent days was irresponsible and top state officials are keeping silent about attacks on journalists, the HND said, adding that this was the third attack on women journalists in Split recently.

In Croatia, which is chairing the EU, there is evidently a hunt on journalists and a lynching atmosphere in which journalists are to blame for everything, the press release said.

In recent years such messages have come also from the highest Church dignitaries and state officials, which is unacceptable, so the HND demands that the state leadership clearly condemn the latest attacks, the press release said, adding that the HND would notify its foreign partners.

More news about journalism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Friday, 10 April 2020

HND, SNH Propose Urgent Measures for Saving Journalism

ZAGREB, April 10, 2020 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (SNH) on Friday proposed urgent measures for saving journalism, saying the government did not recognise problems in the media in the third package of COVID-19 measures and that journalism was completely ignored.

"The erosion of media equals the erosion of democracy; the media sector is in existential danger. Since the beginning of the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, more than 85% of journalists and other part timers or freelancers in media have lost some or all of their business engagements, and full-time employees in a number of media companies have had their salaries reduced," the HND and the SNH said in a joint press release.

In their appeal to the government, they note that these are nor normal times and that a wave off layoffs in journalism would follow as well as shutdowns of media outlets. They emphasise that the government should implement special measures aimed at journalists and the media, and proposed seven short-term measures.

First of all, any form of financial incentive, help, and benefits for media companies should be firmly linked with the obligation to ensure that there are no layoffs or terminations of cooperation with part timers and freelancers during the crisis for at least one year after using the state's help.

Also, financial benefits for owners of media companies should be firmly bound to their obligation not to terminate full-time employees or reduce their wages and other benefits, according to the proposed measures. "Funds granted by the state should be spent for the specified purpose. The crisis cannot be a cover for the media companies to start a new wave of layoffs and to bring down labour costs in the already underpaid and devastated journalist profession."

They also propose increasing public funding for the media via a crisis fund which would provide HRK 30 million for journalism. The fund would ensure quality work by 300 journalists from non-profit and local media to the end of this year.

For those media outlets established by the state or regional and local authorities, the HND and the SNH propose using government measures in proportion with the commercial income generated by the media outlets in question.

The HND and the SNH also propose that HRK 4,000 per month be paid into the accounts of part time journalists for the next three months, provided that their tax returns prove that they did not have any income in 2020. Also, in case of illness, they should receive compensation in the amount of at least 70% of their monthly income.

They propose that the grant allocated from the European Social Fund for the "Media for the Community" programme, worth HRK 15 million, be immediately distributed, and that tenders for the second phase of the same programme should be invited immediately afterwards, for an additional HRK 15 million.

As for long-term measures, they propose establishing a public fund for journalism, making donations and subscriptions to domestic media tax-deductible, and implementing measures for supporting media associations. The state has reacted appropriately to the health crisis for now, and journalists play an important role in that, the appeal emphasised.

"Members of the National Civil Protection Authority thank us for a job well done on a daily basis. The job has its rules and material prerequisites necessary for high-quality reporting... The responsibility for the way journalism will look like in a couple of years is equally yours and ours. A destroyed media sector as a rule leads to a destroyed society," the appeal reads.

The SNH and the HND warn about the catastrophic consequences in the media in the last two weeks, when only 15% of freelance journalists and part-time associates kept their engagements, and when the Croatian Radio Television (HRT) terminated its cooperation with most of the permanent part-time associates. Furthermore, they note that the HANZA media company also terminated cooperation with the majority of their permanent part-time associates, and that salaries have been halved in the Glas Istre newspaper and reduced in the Novi List newspaper. They added that salaries have also been reduced on the HRT and in HANZA without social dialogue.

The appeal points out the fact that Hina employees, following the devastating earthquake which destroyed the agency's building, have been working in difficult conditions from home. They are trying to maintain the agency's work, provide news and other content and fulfill the role of a public service.

"The government must provide Hina access to the measures, just as it has to urgently find new working facilities for the employees as well as rebuild and modernise the agency's headquarters," the HND and the SNH pointed out.

More news about journalism can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Journalists and Media Not Included in Government Measures

ZAGREB, March 18, 2020 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and Journalists' Union (SNH) on Wednesday released a joint press release saying that they regret that the government's measures to ease the consequences of the crisis in the wake of the coronarivus pandemic do not include reporters and the media.

HND and SNH recalled that after the economic crisis in 2008 the number of reporters in Croatia was halved and that they believed that being aware of that, the government will propose measures to protect reporters, who in the current difficult times are exposed to danger in order to serve the public and provide it with important information.

''We call on the Ministry of Culture to adopt measures for reporters and the media, primarily to introduce safeguards for financial breaks or payment deferment for publishers to make sure that they do not lay off full-time media employees or cancel contracts with external contractors, reduce wages for workers or restrict their other labour rights," the journalists said in the press release.

We do not see any such safeguards in the measures designed for reporters nor do the government's measures include our proposals for additional tax reliefs for freelance reporters or paid sick leave for part-time reporters if they contract COVID-19, the journalists say.

The associations underscore that they have requested that the process of allocation of grants secured through the European Social Fund and a call for applications for the remaining funding, in the amount of HRK 15 million, be accelerated.

The announcement that publishers who are beneficiaries of the Fund for Media Pluralism would receive payments is nothing new as that obligation had been agreed a long time ago and concerns regular payments to those who were granted the funding back in 2018, HND and SNH said.

"We consider that the government's measures have to include the media sector in order to save jobs for those people who in this crisis situation are having one of the most important roles in society," HND and SNH underlined.

Quality reporting is not possible without the presence of reporters in places where crises occur, which means that they have a greater risk of being exposed to the virus. That is why we call on the government to secure for all reporters, photo-reporters and technicians in the field protective equipment and speedy testing for the virus.

If a general quarantine is declared, we ask that we be given permits for free movement for all reporters who are out in the field and have a valid press pass, HND and SNH concluded.

More coronavirus news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

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