Friday, 16 September 2022

Croatian Journalists Association Wants Accountability for Matijanić's Death

September 16, 2022 - The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) yesterday started a petition, demanding a new, independent commission to re-investigate the circumstances around the death of their late member, Vladimir Matijanić. 

We have covered this scandal, rattling Croatian society this summer, because of how publicly the details of Matijanić's passing were discussed and how many perceived his death as avoidable. There was a brief investigation by a commission formed by the Minister of Health, Vili Beroš. That commission predictably found that nobody in the healthcare system in Croatia did anything wrong.

Now, the Croatian Journalists Association is calling for another look, by an independent group of experts. The people in the previous commission are reported to be in direct conflict of interest, which makes their findings less legitimate. The Association is asking the Prime Minister to make sure a thorough investigation gets done, including interviewing witnesses. They additionally request that Vili Beroš, the health minister gets removed from the position, because of his embarrassing, scandalous and unacceptable behaviour throughout this situation, but also because of the results of his commission which previously investigated the death of their colleague.

If you want, you can sign the petition here.

There are two things to note here, however: it is extremely bizarre that the association of the nation's journalists, the people whose job and calling it is to ask the questions directly to the people in power, acting in the best interest of the public, feels like the best (only?) way to pressure a Prime Minister is to start a petition. One of the explanations for that decision could be that they wanted to garner international attention to the Croatia's mistreatment of Matijanić and a failed investigation of his death, in which case it's even more bizarre that there isn't an English translation of the text of the petition, so the international readers (such as yourself) don't really know what exactly they'd be signing!

Wednesday, 13 July 2022

HND: Threats to Free Journalism Continue, Articles Disappearing

ZAGREB, 13 July 2022 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) on Wednesday warned about new threats to free journalism, highlighting politicians' inappropriate communication with the media and the disappearance of released articles from the media.

Speaking at a press conference, HND president Hrvoje Zovko mentioned President Zoran Milanović's recent inappropriate statement about the Hanza Media company.

He also mentioned the "disappearance" of articles on MP Sandra Benčić's warning about a possible conflict of interest in private deals between the Security and Intelligence Agency (SOA) and the PPD gas supplier.

We are not investigators, but articles should not disappear from any media in Croatia, Zovko said. "We can't say where the threats are coming from and from which sources of power, but it is the job of the president and the prime minister, who have authority over the SOA, to deal with that."

Maja Sever, president of the European Federation of Journalists and the Croatian Journalists' Trade Union, said political pressure was continuing.

Articles have disappeared from several media, she said. "The PPD says it's not them. Who else is involved? The POA (Counter-intelligence Agency), the SOA, and some other organization?"

Sever said the union was working on strengthening of the legal protection of journalists, their jobs, and livelihoods, and that journalists' organizations were willing to help.

We must reinforce institutional protection, she said, adding that she would state Croatia's examples in talks with the European Commission on European media legislation.

Zovko welcomed Supreme Court president Radovan Dobronić's opening a debate on lawsuits against journalists, including those filed by judges.

For more, check out our politics section.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

HND and SNH Mark Press Freedom Day By Paying Tribute to Reporters Killed in Ukraine

ZAGREB, 3 May 2022 - On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and Croatian Journalists' Union (SNH) in Zagreb on Tuesday paid tribute to reporters killed in Ukraine and to all reporters whose freedom is threatened.

Gathered in front of the memorial plaque commemorating reporters killed during the Second World War antifascist struggle and the 1991-1995 Homeland War, HND president Hrvoje Zovko, his deputies Branko Mijić and Goran Gazdek, SNH leader Maja Sever and their colleagues held photographs of reporters killed in the war in Ukraine.

Sever read excerpts from the Perugia Declaration for Ukraine saying that the Russian military aggression against Ukraine has once again underlined the essential role of independent and ethical journalism in informing people, assisting them in making life-or-death decisions, and holding the powerful to account.

"As a powerful antidote to disinformation and propaganda that characterise hybrid warfare, and as a pillar of democracy upon which other freedoms and rights depend, journalism in Ukraine is undergoing a terrible assault. The targeting, torturing, and killing of journalists is abhorrent and must be stopped. Those responsible must be held accountable and brought to justice under national and international law," Sever said.

The declaration says that vicious online attacks against news organisations and individual journalists must cease, condemning Russia’s attacks on press freedom and freedom of expression in Ukraine in the strongest possible terms. It expresses solidarity with all journalists and independent media covering Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

"The greater the threat to Ukrainian journalists’ lives, livelihoods, and ability to do their jobs, the greater will be our efforts to support them. Funding, protective gear, equipment, housing, training, office space in foreign cities, and psychosocial support – we will do everything we can to support our Ukrainian colleagues’ ability to continue reporting and serving the urgent needs of their audiences," the declaration says.

The document has been signed by the European Federation of Journalists and another 149 organisations, as well as by the HND and SNH.

Saturday, 30 April 2022

Journalists' Association Asks President to Stop Insulting Their Profession

ZAGREB, 30 April 2022 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) on Saturday asked President Zoran Milanović to stop insulting the journalistic profession, saying that his statements about journalists and the media are inappropriate and to be condemned.

The HND commented on Milanović's statement that he did not follow the media. "They follow me, like scabies, like a skin infection... It's awfully bad. The education criterion has declined enormously. It's a totally neglected profession," the president said.

The HND said in a press release that such assessments did not befit the head of state in a democratic society and that they were insulting to all journalists as well as an unacceptable generalisation of a public interest profession.

The HND said numerous governments were responsible for the "devastated" journalistic scene, including Milanović's when he was prime minister, during which the current law on the public broadcaster was adopted, which, the HND said, was having disastrous consequences.

The HND said that over the past 30 years journalists played an important role in uncovering numerous irregularities in society, and criticised the behaviour of the president and the prime minister "in these moments of crisis."

The HND urged Milanović to just answer questions from the press, without belittling and vilifying, reminding him that in his inauguration speech he underlined the importance of protecting and promoting the independence of the media.

The HND reiterated its call on all office holders to just answer questions from the press.

Wednesday, 13 April 2022

HND Says Terror With SLAPP Lawsuits Against Reporters Continues, Protest Possible

ZAGREB, 13 April 2022 - Croatian Journalists Association (HND) president Hrvoje Zovko warned on Wednesday that terror with SLAPP lawsuits against reporters and media in Croatia continued as one of the forms of intimidation and financial ruin, and that the HND would organise a protest if nothing changed.

"We recently presented the latest data on the number of lawsuits against journalists and media in the total amount of HRK 77.4 million, which is an infamous European record. The situation is not changing and apart from politicians, both the ruling ones and those in the opposition, judges, too, have been participating in the abuse of reporters and media through lawsuits," Zovko told a news conference.

He said the HND expected a serious response by the relevant authorities to the "judicial terror", and was prepared to again stage a major protest if nothing changed.

"The few ones who in this country are doing their job are being ruined financially", Zovko said.

He said that Osijek County Court president Zvonko Vrban, who once said that he would not sue former football manager Zdravko Mamić over his statements about him, was one of the people who had filed the most lawsuits against media outlets.

Vrban has filed five lawsuits against the news portal, seeking HRK 150,000 in damages in each case. He has sued the portal for five investigative reports by journalist Drago Hedl, as well as the portal's editor-in-chief, Jelena Valentić, for another HRK 150,000, and he has also sued Hedl. The trial will be held in Zagreb and the HND will follow it closely, Zovko said.

The second negative example is that of former Social Democrat MP Romana Nikolić who sued the media for having reported that she had been convicted of making a death threat, which under the legal regulation on rehabilitation, should not be mentioned.

Zovko believes the regulation should be repealed because the public should have the right to know about the past actions of anyone wishing to hold a public office.

Nikolić sued the 24 sata daily, seeking HRK 75,000 in damages and she won 15,000. She also won a case against the Hanza media publishing company in the amount of HRK 40,000 and against reporter Gordan Gazdek, in the amount of HRK 10,000. Nikolić also sued the Glas Slavonije daily which reached a settlement with her, and a case in which she sued is underway.

For more, check out our dedicated politics and lifestyle sections.

Saturday, 19 February 2022

HND Concerned Over Ruling Against Hanza Media for Judge's Emotional Distress

ZAGREB, 19 Feb 2022 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) on Saturday expressed its concern over, as it said, a dangerous ruling pending appeal by Zagreb County Court against Hanza Media ordering the company to pay HRK 250,000 in compensation to Zadar Judge Ivan Marković for emotional distress.

The ruling was delivered on 11 February by Judge Helena Frigo Bomeštar. Judge Marković ruled in a case in 2019 on sentencing for five youths accused of rape, sexual abuse and recording a fifteen-year-old girl from Zadar's environs. Judge Marković released the five youths immediately after questioning, but a panel changed his decision and order their detention. Marković's decision became a topic for the media and he subsequently sued those media, HND recalled.

HND underscored that the first article on the rape was released by a reporter for the Slobodna Dalmacija portal which is owned by Hanza Media and later the story was released by a score of other media outlets. Marković then sued all media outlets that critically reported on the case, notably on the scandalous decision that the five suspects be released, HND said in a press release.

Marković was awarded HRK 250,000 after initially seeking HRK 825,000 in damages, the HND said. He filed 26 suits at the Zagreb Municipal Court, claiming that the media had caused irreparable damage to his reputation and honour as well as instigating a public campaign against him. The court ruled in favour of Marković's suit while rejecting evidence that reporters presented in support of their case.

HND considers the ruling to be "scandalous and dangerous for journalism and the media in general."

HND said that judges are often serial plaintiffs against reporters and the media in Croatia and that this is unique in Europe, where Croatia is recognised as the worst country with regard to SLAPP suits aimed at intimidating critics, usually reporters and burdening them with expensive lawsuits.

The most recent ruling clearly show that the response to these ridiculous court decisions, that threaten the freedom of the media, lies in the hands of the government, which has the mechanism to prevent this by decriminalising defamation and insults, by limiting the amount of damages and by educating judges, HND said, adding that it has called on the Ministry of Culture and Media, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Administration, and the Supreme Court to react in this regard.

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.

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.

Friday, 13 August 2021

HND, SNH Slam Sacking of Two Reporters and Cameraman at Local TV Station

ZAGREB, 13 Aug 2021 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and the Croatian Journalists' Trade Union (SNH) on Friday condemned the decision of the owner of the Televizija Šibenik on the extraordinary dismissal without prior notice of two journalists and a television camera operator.

Addressing a news conference the HND leader Hrvoje Zovko said that journalists were "fed up with local power-mongers who tailor local media coverage" and compared the case of TV Šibenik with the recent developments in the Pula-based Glas Istre newspaper in which some reporters were fired.

Zovko strongly condemned the move of the TV Šibenik owner Stipe Grcić to bar one of the dismissed reporters -- Lucija Cvitan -- from entering the broadcaster's premises, and pointed out a label put on the door of the editorial room reading that Cvitan is "a persona non grata".

Zovko and Cvitan told today's news conference that this label was particularly disparaging and the European Federation of Journalists would be informed of this action of the media outlet's owner, if he failed to remove it immediately.

The HND chief said that the actions of Grcić and the TV Šibenik were scandalous, particularly having in mind the fact that the media outlet was partly funded from the state budget.

Zovko added that they had sent a request to Grcić last night to give his comment on the case but he had not sent any response until the start of the news conference.

Cvitan said that before being sacked she had not received any notice. I sent an e-mail asking or amending my employment contract for June. The reply sent after that was that I was no longer an employee of the TV Šibenik, she said adding that after that the disparaging label appeared on the editorial room.

"I want the stain to be removed from my name. I have have worked conscientiously," said Cvitan.

The other sacked reporter, Ivana Bulat, was fired during her sick leave.

The SNH leader Maja Sever said that the key to such problems appearing in local media outlets would be the conclusion of collective agreements regulating all the rights and entitlements of journalists.

For more on politics, CLICK HERE.

Tuesday, 1 June 2021

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) Joins in Condemning PM Plenković's Statements

ZAGREB, 1 June, 2021 - The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) has joined the Croatian Journalists Association (HND) and the Croatian Journalists Union (SNH) in condemning Prime Minister Andrej Plenković's verbal attacks on media and reporters after the local runoff election on 30 May.

The HND said on its website that EFJ Secretary-General Ricardo Gutiérrez described as "totally unacceptable that journalists are being attacked by both the Prime Minister and, just recently, the President of Croatia."

"Blaming journalists in this way is an attempt to undermine their credibility in order to limit their role as a counterweight. To insult or threaten journalists is to insult and threaten citizens, and to undermine the right of citizens to access free, independent information," the HND quoted Gutiérrez as saying.

The EFJ said on its website that shortly after the second round of local elections in Croatia, Plenković once again attacked the media, accusing them of "being paid to vilify a political camp" and accusing Dražen Lalić, an analyst and professor at the Zagreb Faculty of Political Science, of being paid by broadcasters to smear HDZ candidates, targeting also HND president Hrvoje Zovko, who strongly condemned his attack on the media.

The EFJ carried a statement issued on Monday by the HND and SNH in which the two organisations deplored "the open threats PM Plenkovic has made against all our colleagues and media which do not follow his and the HDZ's ideology.

"To name all those who critically speak about candidates ahead of elections and to mark as targets 'those who calumniate people for money' is not the kind of discourse that should be used by politicians, let alone prime ministers of civilised and democratic EU countries," the two organisations said in the statement carried by the EFJ.

The EFJ also quoted the HND and SNH as saying that such attacks only show Plenković and his HDZ party's ambition "to completely control the public sphere and determine the limits of media freedoms in Croatia".

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

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