Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Croatia Ranks 48th on World Press Freedom Index

ZAGREB, 3 May 2022 - Croatia ranks 48th on the 2022 World Press Freedom Index published on Tuesday by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), with 70.42 points, an improvement compared to 2021, when it ranked 56th with 72.05 points. The annual RSF survey of media freedoms covers 180 countries.

Croatia ranks best on the legislative indicator (38th) and worst on the social indicator (64th).

While the media scene has become diverse and dynamic, the government is failing to protect journalists against legal attempts to muzzle them, and against organised crime, the RSF says in the section of the global report dealing with Croatia, noting that the government itself represents a threat to press freedom.

Croatia, with a population of less than four million, enjoys a modestly sized but diverse media sector, the RSF says.

A half-dozen national newspapers appear each day, but their ownership is concentrated. Two media companies, Styria and Hanza Media, control three-quarters of the market.

The two major private television networks, Nova TVZ and RTL, provide national coverage, competing with the publicly owned HTV, while most radio stations have only local presence.

Working as a journalist in Croatia can be hazardous. Reporters investigating corruption, organised crime, and war crimes, especially at the local level, are often hit by harassment campaigns, while physical assaults, threats, and cyber-violence represent a major problem. Authorities remain silent. Government interference in the management of HTV persists, the RSF says.

Defamation is a criminal offence in Croatia, and regularly invoked by politicians and business people to discourage journalists’ questions about their activities. In addition, insulting "the Republic, its emblem, its national anthem or its flag" is punishable by up to three years in prison. Even more serious, comments deemed "humiliating" are criminalised. Gag-order lawsuits (SLAPPs) remain a scourge, with nearly one thousand legal actions against journalists or media organisations underway, the RSF report reads.

The Covid-19 pandemic has deepened the financial crisis that was already impacting Croatian media, leading to further lowering of editorial salaries. As the result of a 2016 government action, non-profit media have lost some of their financing. In an attempt to deal with financial problems, big newspapers have increasingly agreed to partner with the government in holding events, which raises questions about media independence. 

Crimes committed by Croat forces during the 1991-1995 war of independence remain an off-limit subject. Journalists who deal with the issue may be targeted in harassment campaigns. Nationalist movements, and those close to the Catholic Church, are often the source of these attacks. Reporters who probe corruption cases, especially at the local level, endure attacks from organised-crime gangs.

No journalists have been killed since 2008, but physical assaults and intimidation of journalists occur every year, especially in the course of demonstrations, the RSF says in the report on Croatia.

Tuesday, 20 April 2021

Reporters without Borders (RSF): Press Freedom Deteriorates in World While Croatia Sees Progress

ZAGREB, 20 April, 2021 - The Reporters without Borders (RSF) association has reported that the pandemic has led to a dramatic deterioration of media freedom worldwide, while its latest index shows that the situation has improved in Croatia.

Croatia ranks 56th out of 180 countries on the organisation’s annual Press Freedom Index, moving up three notches after ranking 59th in the previous report.

The organisation's latest report, released on Tuesday, reads that "Croatian journalists who investigate corruption, organised crime or war crimes are often subjected to harassment campaigns."

"Defamation is criminalised and insulting 'the Republic, its emblem, its national hymn or flag' is punishable by up to three years in prison. Worse still, 'humiliating' media content has been criminalised since 2013. Nonetheless, several courts ruled in favour of journalists during defamation trials in 2020. The government has not stopped meddling in the public TV broadcaster HRT, while HRT’s management continues to sue employees who have complained about this problem, and has gone so far as to bring a complaint against the Association of Croatian Journalists."

COVID-19 pandemic deepens financial crisis in media

"Meanwhile physical attacks, along with threats and cyber-violence, continue to be a major problem for journalists without any reaction from the authorities. The Covid-19 pandemic deepened the financial crisis in the media, leading many outlets to cut pay and stop using freelancers. The journalists’ union asked the government to intervene to help freelancers and some economic measures were taken in the summer of 2020 but not all media benefitted," reads the report's section about Croatia.

Deterioration worldwide 

The organisation warns that media freedoms have deteriorated considerably in Asia, in the Middle East and Europe, as shown by its index.

The index is based on a survey of Reporters Without Borders’ regional correspondents and takes into account issues such as the level of attacks on journalists, media independence, and transparency of government institutions.

The pandemic led to an increase in repression worldwide, according to RSF, which noted that media workers had been arrested for covering the outbreak in countries including China, Venezuela, Serbia and Kosovo.

Top 10 best countries for press freedom are as follows: Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Jamaica, New Zealand, Portugal and Switzerland.

On the other hand, the top worst countries are Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, China, Djibouti, Vietnam, Iran, Syria, Laos and Cuba.

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