Thursday, 26 May 2022

Split Journalist Mate Prlic Supported by Colleagues Following Police Incident

May the 26th, 2022 - Mate Prlic, journalist and co-owner of Dalmatinski portal, was arrested and is in pre-trial detention together with others from the motorway clash with police in Zagreb, in an incident which occurred recently following a Hajduk-Dinamo match, about which you can read more here. Prlic has been arrested despite having not participated in the clash with police in any way, writes

As Slobodna Dalmacija/PSD writes, Mate Prlic is a family man in his forties and is an excellent professional, and judging by the statements of his colleagues, friends, but also people who were in the column of fans who returned to Split from Zagreb after the game, he was simply just very unlucky to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

''Mate was in the car with three other friends. The boys said that they were driving at the back of a column of traffic which was several hundred metres long. Mate was asleep when they came to a standstill. They stayed there for a while, when they realised that something was going on ahead, a terrible noise could be heard and Mate, who had just woken up, got out of the car to see what was going on.

He wasn't on any sort of assignment, but he's a journalist, so of course he was interested in what was happening. His phone remained in the car, in the seat. Somehow, just at that moment in time, the police came with their tear gas and batons and began beating everyone there. The guys who were with Mate left the car and fled over the wire from the motorway, he didn't run away, he obviously thought he wasn't guilty of anything, and he ended up on the floor and put in handcuffs,'' a friend of one of the co-drivers told, with whom Mate Prlic had tried to return home to Split from Zagreb.

Allegedly, before the arrival of the police, those who actually had caused the conflict on the motorway had already fled, and many were arrested who thought they had no reason to flee because they hadn't done anything.

Hrvoje Zovko, the president of HND (Croatian Journalists' Association), commented on the situation:

''According to the information we've got, Mate Prlic didn't take part in any incident or do anything that should have led to his arrest and detention. We respect the work of the institutions and we want this whole story to be fully explored, to shed light on all the circumstances of the whole event, but also the treatment of him and other people. HND condemns any kind of violence, we aren't offering justification for any attack, but we do ask that all of the circumstances surrounding this situation be properly determined, including the treatment of our colleague who apparently did nothing wrong except find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time,'' said Zovko.

Another Dalmatian portal, DalmacijaDanas, has published that a large number of journalists have signed an appeal over the whole Mate Prlic situation. The appeal, at the time of writing signed by 255 journalists, says the following:

"We, journalists from Split, as well as colleagues from all parts of Croatia, were shocked to learn that after Saturday's riot on the motorway, our dear colleague Mate Prlic was detained. Everyone who knows him, from colleagues to business partners, is fully convinced that he has absolutely nothing to do with provoking fan riots, nor did he participate in them, and we've seen no evidence to the contrary.

We call on all of the relevant institutions to submit and publish, as soon as possible, all available recordings and other evidence on the basis of which he was detained and for which he was sentenced to pre-trial detention.

The fact that Mate Prlic, a respected intellectual who is liked and appreciated by practically the whole of Split, is among those detained and imprisoned, justifiably raises suspicions as to whether the actions taken by the police and the judicial authorities were regular. If indeed pre-trial detention is assigned to a person who did nothing other than find himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, then a legitimate question arises as to how many more such cases are among those who were also arrested.

Below are the signatures of all of the journalists, editors, columnists, cameramen, photojournalists, graphic artists, filmmakers and many other media employees who want to express their support for their colleague, with the desire to prove his innocence as soon as possible,'' reads the appeal signed by 255 journalists whose names you can read by clicking here.

Thursday, 3 March 2022

Croatian Journalists' Copyright Protection Association Joins IFRRO

ZAGREB, 3 March 2022 - The Croatian Association for the Protection of Journalists' Copyright (DZNAP) has been admitted as a member of the International Federation of Reproduction Rights Organisations (IFRRO), an umbrella organization for the collective protection of the copyrights of authors and publishers across the world. 

With the admission of DZNAP, IFFRO now has 159 members from 85 countries, bringing together millions of authors, visual artists, musicians, and publishers.

"After writers and book publishers, we are the third association from Croatia to join IFRRO. We will not just use the benefits of membership but will also make our contribution by sharing the know-how with those less experienced than us in the collective protection of authors' copyrights and their monetization," DZNAP president Valentina Wiesner said.

IFRRO is an independent non-profit membership association facilitating the collective management of reproduction and other rights in text and image works through the cooperation of its member reproduction rights organizations. Its members collect about a billion euros from copyright fees annually.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 6 November 2021

HND: Journalist Subjected to Institutional Lynching Over Article on Vukovar

ZAGREB, 6 Nov 2021 - The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) on Saturday strongly condemned "the public and institutional lynching" of journalist Boris Dežulović over his article published on the website of N1 television in which he criticized the abuse of the plight of Vukovar in the 1991-1995 Homeland War for political purposes.

The HND said in a statement it was particularly worrying that public condemnations of the journalist were made by the Ministry of Veterans' Affairs, thus "institutionalizing the lynching of a journalist and eradication of freedom of speech."

"Our colleague Dežulović has received over a hundred serious threats and death threats over the last few days, some of which he has reported to the police," the HND said, calling on the state institutions to protect Dežulović from any form of intimidation, threat or persecution like any other journalist who encourages important public discussions such as this one.

"Dežulović's persecutors persistently and deliberately insinuate that his article was a gross insult to the sacrifice of Vukovar and its citizens. It is clear to anyone who read the article from beginning to end that the author's intention was only to criticize how state and local authorities treat Vukovar and how various political groups have been carefully mummifying it for decades to keep it in a state that suits their political interest, how its existence has been reduced to a site of special respect, rather than a city fit for living," the HND said.

Dežulović rightfully drew attention to the ongoing exodus of its residents because of neglect for the city and the absence of any political strategy other than a commemorative one, and he did so in the public interest, notably in the interest of its residents, the statement said.

The HND noted that Dežulović has been writing about this matter continually, recalling that he had received the prestigious European Press Prize for an article published on 19 November 2013 under the title "Vukovar - A Life-Size Monument to the Dead City".

The HND said that a topic such as the treatment of Vukovar 30 years after its destruction at the start of the war in 1991 must be open to public discussion. "Otherwise, we will allow multiple victimization of this city, which will not only remain captured in its commemorative role but will also be deprived of any discussion on the purpose and effects of such a role," the statement said.

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

EFJ Annual Meeting 2021: Journalists' Issues to be Discussed in Zagreb

October 6, 2021 - The EFJ Annual Meeting 2021 comes to Zagreb to discuss European, local and global media freedom, as well as journalists' safety. Established on December 18, 1910, The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) is one of the oldest professional associations in modern Croatia.

As expected, it is older than the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) that was established in 1994, but then again, as expected, the EFJ (being multinational) holds a much stronger position when addressing the typical troubles journalists face.

The two associations collaborate really well, as is evident in EFJ's support to HND in condemning Croatian PM Andrej Plenković who is also the president of the right-centre Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). As TCN informed in June, Plenković attacked the press, accusing them of being paid to vilify and smear HDZ candidates.

After the event being postponed in May 2020, both HND and the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (SNH) will host the EFJ annual meeting in Zagreb on October 8-9. This year's edition of the meeting will go with a theme titled ''Better Protecting Journalists''.

''The topics include enhancing the protection of journalists across Europe, pressures on media in the region, the prosecution of journalists and journalist associations in Belarus, and rescuing journalists from Afghanistan. The two-day assembly will be held at the Journalists' Home and gather over one hundred respected journalists, the president of the journalists' organisation and syndicates from all over Europe, as well as distinguished guests,'' says HND on its website.

The open part of the assembly will have two panels.

The first one, entitled ''Pressures on journalists and media in the region'' is where the Journalist Security Index will be presented. The Index has four categories: the legal and administrative frame and context of journalistic work, attack preventions, investigations and legal actions taken against journalists and procedures in case of an attack on a journalist.

It will be interesting to see the newest results because, as TCN wrote earlier, while media liberties deteriorate in the rest of the world, Croatia actually saw quite some progress.

The second open panel is a round table entitled ''Journalism in the time of polarisation''.

''The opening remarks to the representatives of the press association will be given by Croatian President Zoran Milanović, Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek (who will also do so on behalf of Croatian PM Andrej Plenković), and IFJ President Mogens Blicher. SNH President Maja Sever, HND President Hrvoje Zovko and President of the Belarus Journalists' Association Andrei Bastunets, will all also be present,'' announced HND.

When it comes to Croatia, as TCN wrote, the main issue in this regard is currently lawsuits, particularly SLAPP lawsuits, which are ''strategic'' lawsuits (meaning they're unfounded or exaggerated) and aimed at intimidating and silencing those who ask questions of public interest.

Read about Croatian politics and history since 1990 on our TC guide.

For more about the Croatian Journalists' Association, follow TCN's dedicated page

Monday, 4 October 2021

HND Says HRK 6.2m Claim for Damages Against News Portal Scandalous

ZAGREB, 4 Oct 2021 - The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) on Monday described as scandalous businessman Josip Stojanović Jolly's lawsuit against the news portals, Šibenik In, Šibenik News, and Šibenski Portal, in which he seeks HRK 6.2 million in damages from them for causing damage to his reputation.

"This is an unprecedented financial attack on the media in Croatia and it seems to be an introduction into a new series of lawsuits against media outlets, aimed at intimidating and destroying them," HND president Hrvoje Zovko told a news conference.

He noted that the claim for damages ensued after an article that was based on a non-final court verdict against the businessman, published by and carried by the Šibenik-based news portals. Stojanović sued, seeking HRK 2.3 million in damages, and the three news portals from Šibenik, seeking another 3.9 million in damages.

HND calls on Stojanović to drop his "crazy and scandalous claim"

Zovko said that the HND had notified the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) about the case, calling on Stojanović to drop "this crazy and scandalous claim."

He said that the case was a kind of introduction into a debate about strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP) against reporters and media, to be held at an EFJ conference to take place in Zagreb at the end of the week.

Minister should react

Zovko recalled that the Ministry of Culture and Media recently set up a task force to provide expert advice in shaping a policy against SLAPP suits and that the last case was a sort of test of the competent institutions' determination to combat SLAPP suits.

He called on Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek to comment on the latest case, stressing that claims for damages against media outlets and reporters had become a competition to see who would sue reporters more and who would seek higher damages, with the initial amounts being ten, twenty, thirty and a hundred thousand kuna and the latest case amounting to more than six million. editor Jelena Valentić said that the article in question, in which the non-final ruling against Stojanović was carried and which was made in line with professional rules, was followed by the businessman's lawsuit in which he sued the portal for causing damage to his reputation and for loss of profit, estimated at some two million kuna.

Valentić said that this was just one in a number of claims for damages against, noting that it put huge pressure on journalists.

"This is intimidation, aimed at preventing us from doing our job," she said, an assessment supported by Šibenski Portal editor Ksenija Bilan, who recalled numerous cases when local power players tried to exert influence on local media outlets.

(€1 = HRK 7.488172)

For more on politics, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

HND Demands Protection for Reporters Covering Anti-Maskers' Protest

ZAGREB, 16 Sept 2021 - The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) on Thursday condemned threats against reporters covering an anti-maskers' protest outside a school in Krapinske Toplice, calling for promptly "putting an end to the violence that threatens to turn into a lynching campaign" and for protecting journalists.

The HND said the violence outside the primary school in Krapinske Toplice jeopardized primarily students and teachers and that it was escalating into threats against reporters who were doing their job professionally.

"We condemn threats against our colleague Ivan Kovačić, who was the first to report about the situation in Krapinske Toplice, where protesters have been rallying in support of a father who does not want his son to wear a mask in school," the HND said, noting that Kovačić had been targeted for days on social networks where his name and phone number had been made public, with calls to contact and harass him.

The HND seeks protection for the school children, school staff, and reporters covering the developments in Krapinske Toplice.

"We ask the police to respond as they responded in cases when politicians and office-holders were exposed to much more benign threats, we ask the prosecutorial authorities to prosecute ex-officio perpetrators of such offenses and we expect courts to rule promptly in order to prevent future violence as a method of resolving social conflicts," the HND said.

It also condemned the conduct of the Zagreb-based Z1 television, whose editors and reporters it said were uncritically supporting one side, actively preventing students from entering the school and threatening its principal as well as staying on the school premises without permission for days.

The HND said it also expected a comment from the Culture and Media Minister and the Electronic Media Council.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Monday, 26 July 2021

EC Concerned About Lawsuits Against Croatian Journalists

ZAGREB, 26 July 2021 - The European Commission last week issued a report on the rule of law in Croatia expressing concern over a large number of the so-called SLAPP lawsuits against reporters and the media and voicing suspicion in the political independence of the media regulator: the Electronic Media Agency.

"Croatia is updating its media legislation to transpose the Audiovisual Media Services Directive, with the revision of the Electronic Media Act to be adopted still in 2021. Concerns about the political independence of the Agency for Electronic Media persist," the Commission said in the report.

Apart from concern regarding the independence of that the Electronic Media Agency which, among other things, is expected to deal with hate speech, the report says that lawsuits against journalists and media outlets also gives rise to concern,

"A legal framework for the protection of journalists is in place, but they continue to face threats. In particular, the high number of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting journalists continues to be a serious concern. Access to information is ensured by law, but delays in the processing of requests from journalists persist."

Zovko: Allegations from report expected

The president of the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND), Hrvoje Zovko, commented on the allegations from the European Commission's report regarding media pluralism and freedom in Croatia, describing them as expected.

"Unfortunately, several categories regarding media freedoms in Croatia have been criticized, including numerous verbal attacks by politicians against journalists and the media. We already have a culture of suing journalists and the media. SLAPPs are a new model of attacks against journalists, aimed at intimidating them and the media and imposing censorship, even destroying them," Zovko said.

He recalled that according to an HND survey, there were 924 active lawsuits against journalists in Croatia in April, adding that the HND had been warning about this problem for years and stressing that this was the reason why Croatia was recognized as a problematic country.

He welcomed the initiative by the Ministry of Culture and Media to set up an expert working group to curb SLAPPs, adding, however, that its results were yet to be seen.

"The HND has been lobbying for quite some time for the decriminalization of slander and defamation. This could be the beginning of curbing violence against journalists and the media through lawsuits," Zovko said.

Ministry of Culture and Media: Expert working group set up

In its comment to Hina on the part of the report concerning attacks on journalists and SLAPP lawsuits, the Ministry of Culture and Media said that similar concerns are raised in many countries and that the Ministry of the Interior responds to every complaint.

The Ministry has set up an expert working group after the European Commission adopted an action plan for European democracy, with the protection of journalists against SLAPP lawsuits as one of its main goals.

The working group includes representatives of the media sector, judiciary, lawyers, and the academic community. It has already begun work and one of its first steps is launching training for judges, lawyers, and journalists in cooperation with the Justice Academy.

After the first meeting of the working group, Minister Obuljen Koržinek stressed the importance of ensuring uniform case law and training of journalists and judges.

The Ministry said that media legislation and other laws based on which such lawsuits are brought will be improved and that co-regulation and self-regulation mechanisms would be established within the professions.

The national recovery and resilience plan will finance a system of public disclosure of information on media financing and the development of a network of fact-checkers to further contribute to transparency and trust in the media, the Ministry said.

Asked to comment on the claim by the European Commission that there are still doubts about the political independence of the Electronic Media Agency and the Electronic Media Council, the Ministry cited European models for the appointment of such bodies.

The Electronic Media Council is appointed by the Croatian parliament based on a proposal by the government following a public call. The appointment model is similar to the prevailing model in Europe. The appointment of Council members by parliament, instead of by the government, was introduced in 2009, with public consultations involving all relevant stakeholders, the Ministry said.

The Electronic Media Agency declined to comment, saying that the European Commission's claim was not corroborated. It said that the process of appointment of members of the Electronic Media Council was the same as in all EU member states, given that they are appointed by parliament, government, a president, or a sovereign.

For more, follow our dedicated politics section.