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.

Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Plenković Issues Message for World Press Freedom Day

ZAGREB, 3 May 2022 - The imperative of every democratic society is to provide journalists with conditions for unobstructed, safe and professional work, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković said on Tuesday on the occasion of World Press Freedom Day.

"Freedom of the press is the foundation of every democratic society in which it is imperative to provide journalists with conditions for unobstructed, safe and professional work," Plenković wrote on Twitter.

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.

Monday, 3 May 2021

World Press Freedom Day: SNH Warns of Worsening Situation for Journalists

May 3, 2021 - The Croatian Journalists' Union (SNH) marked World Press Freedom Day on Monday with a symbolic campaign called "Five Minutes of Deafening Silence" drawing attention to the worsening working and professional status of journalists and problems faced by local media. 

Problems in the media sector and pressure on journalists have been increasing for years across the world and have been exacerbated by the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic, the SNH said in a statement.

It noted that work from home was threatening to become a permanent informal and insecure form of work for journalists, restricting their working and professional rights.

The Croatian media sector is facing a series of problems - a media strategy that has been talked about for years has not been adopted yet and the existing legislation is full of shortcomings and needs to be made more specific to ensure the role of the media in a democratic society and prevent political control, the statement said, citing the Media Act and the Croatian Radio and Television Act.

Citing a report by media watchdog Reporters Without Borders, the SNH said that the Croatian public broadcasting service HRT was left over to the ruling majority to interfere in its personnel policy and decision making.

The SNH also stressed the need to change the Electronic Media Act to stop the rise in hate speech and attacks on journalists, as well as the Criminal Code, which public and political figures use to bring hundreds of defamation charges against journalists.

According to this year's survey by the Croatian Journalists Association (HND), at least 924 lawsuits have been brought against Croatian media outlets and journalists seeking as much as HRK 78.5 million in damages, which is HRK 10 million more compared with a similar survey conducted in 2020. The actual number of lawsuits is believed to be higher.

"We can speak of more than 1,000 lawsuits and can say that in Croatia there is a shameful culture of taking journalists to court to exhaust them financially and discourage them professionally," HND president Hrvoje Zovko said.

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