The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), is alarmed about the pressure exerted on Croatian journalist Helena Puljiz by the Counter Intelligence Agency (POA).
According to information before SEEMO, on 5 October, Puljiz was taken by POA employees to an interview. The talk soon turned into an attempt to bribe and blackmail the journalist. She was asked to cooperate with POA and also to deliver information about her colleagues. POA threatened Puljiz that in case she refused, it would make public compromising details about her private life. She was interrogated for five hours. This case was then reported to the Croatian Council for Civil Supervision of Intelligence Agencies and is now being discussed in the Parliament.
SEEMO urges the Croatian Government and Parliament to urgently investigate the pressure POA used against the journalist and ensure that all the details are made public, while respecting the private sphere of Puljiz, as well as to prevent such practices happening in the future. We would also like to add that the SEEMO office in Vienna has been informed of similar uses of pressure against Croatian journalists by the police and intelligence agencies in the recent past.
Furthermore, SEEMO was informed that the position of freelance journalists in Croatia is continuously worsening under the present labor law, tax law and copyright law. The Government has been refusing to amend the unfavourable legal regulations regarding the freedom and financial independence of freelance journalists, as proposed by the Freelance Journalists' Chapter (FJC) and Croatian Journalists' Association (HND).
SEEMO urges the Croatian Government to amend these laws according to international standards. SEEMO would like to stress that it is vital for journalists to do their job freely and that independent media are crucial for democratic development in any country.