The South and East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and the International Press Institute (IPI), completed a four-day Press Freedom Mission to Croatia during which it met with a broad array of media stakeholders and government representatives, and concluded that there are many areas of concern within the media in Croatia.
SEEMO and IPI are alarmed by proposed changes to the country’s criminal code, which were drafted by a group of experts that would impose severe penalties for libel including jail and fines of up to half of a journalist’s wages. The delegation was pleased to hear from President Ivo Josipovic at a meeting in his office in Zagreb that he is against the draft legislation and that he would do everything in his power to have jailing of journalists removed from the legislation.
After speaking to representatives from Radio 101, SEEMO Secretary General and Mission Leader Oliver Vujovic said: “We demand that all laws connected to the case of Radio 101 be respected.”
SEEMO and IPI noted that the media in Croatia still experience a strong amount of pressure from both political and business groups.
The question of transparency of ownership remains a large problem in the media.
The delegation was also concerned to hear of the difficulties Croatian investigative journalists have in covering organised crime and corruption including threats and attacks. While those responsible for physical attacks on journalists are often jailed, the organisers of the crime are rarely identified. SEEMO and IPI urge the authorities in Zagreb to work harder to find the organisers of attacks on journalists.
SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic said: “Our mission provided clarity about the media situation in Croatia and our discussions opened up many possibilities for future cooperation with media representatives in the region.”
IPI Acting Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “There are serious concerns about the media situation in Croatia, the most pressing being the consideration of a draft law on criminal libel. We are anxious to work closely with the media and government officials to ensure that such a law does not come to fruition.”
SEEMO and IPI will continue to monitor the media situation in Croatia for further developments and will produce a report detailing its mission findings and recommendations.
The mission took place from 25-28 January 2011.