Journalist association and union call for media reforms and protections
Despite concerns on the protection of privacy in Croatia, the health and IT sectors have developed a Croatian version of the Stop COVID-19 app. They state that the use of the app is temporary, anonymous and for the sole purpose of informing users about exposure to the virus. Users’ privacy is also claimed to be ensured.
During the reporting period, several gatherings were held, while adhering to the recommendations to curb the spread of COVID-19.
- A protest of around 500 participants, including members of LGBTI+ groups and their allies was held in Zagreb. The initiative, called “Proud Zagreb” took place in the form of a pride bicycle ride with the aim of promoting the rights of the LGBTI+ community. They also announced the names of 117 candidates running in the Croatian parliamentary elections who signed demands prepared by LGBTI+ groups for prospective members of the 10th new parliament.
- Students and professors at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences staged a protest walk outside the faculty building against the rector's decision to suspend the faculty's dean, Vesna Vlahovic-Stetic. Vlahovic-Stetic was suspended after the Zagreb County Court found she was guilty of harassing Vice-Rector Ante Covic and thus harming the dignity of employees in the sphere of communication, social relations and quality of their professional status. But protestors, among whom was Tomislav Tomasevic of the “We Can” political platform, accused rector Boras of abusing the autonomy of the university. Protesters carried banners with messages: "No Pasaran!" or "The Faculty is Ours!" and messages promoting left-libertarianism.
- Residents of Marcelji and communities close to the Mariscina waste management centre near the city of Rijeka, gathered outside the entrance to the facility to protest against the stench and pollution. The protesters, who stated that they are running out of patience due to the unsanitary conditions, called upon the environment minister to shut down the waste management centre and to provide a more viable solution for waste management in the community.
In relation to the COVID-19 pandemic developments the director of the Croatian Institute of Public Health, Krunoslav Capak stated that there is a high possibility that gatherings will be limited again in the autumn.
The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and the Trade Union of Journalists and Media Workers of Croatia (SNH) sent an open letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic and Culture and Media Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek reminding them of unresolved challenges facing journalists and calling for a quality media strategy, new media laws and journalism funds. They also called on the government to adopt the promised media legislation reform and to solve cases of threats and pressure against journalists. The letter also called for the adoption of an improved media policy to secure the freedom of expression and the European values of the country. It stated:
“During your last term, we were forced to take to the streets and protest burdened by a huge number of lawsuits against our colleagues and the media, political and advertiser pressure, threats to journalists, threats to professional rights and standards, disregard for media laws, lack of serious media policy. Today the situation is even worse.” (translated from Bosnian)
“Although the crisis caused by COVID 19 showed how important the role of free and independent media is and that verified and accurate information can save lives, it further deepened the difficult economic situation in the media sector and showed how unprotected journalists and media workers really are.” (translated from Bosnian).
Hrvatsko novinarsko društvo i @Sindikatnovinar uputili su danas otvoreno pismo premijeru @AndrejPlenkovic i ministrici kulture i medija @NObuljen u kojem su iznijeli svoje zahtjeve i očekivanja od nove Vlade, odnosno Ministarstva kulture i medija. https://t.co/UK0d0TZt6O— HND (@HNDhr) July 24, 2020
In a separate development, Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) president Hrvoje Zovko reminded the authorities that the Rijeka County Court rejected an appeal by the HRT public broadcaster which confirmed that the HRT's decision to fire Zovko in September 2018 was unlawful. The court also ruled that Zovko should be reinstated and is entitled to compensation for income loss for the years that he was fired. Zovko was fired in September 2019 after a complaint was filed against him for inappropriate conduct and unprofessional statements. However, ten days prior to that he had already handed in his resignation due to “pressure, censorship, an unprofessional choice of topics, lack of organisation and serious technical problems” at the broadcaster.
#Journalism wins today. We come a step further with our push for an #independent public service media in #Croatia because of the bravery & resilience of one #journalist, Hrvoje Zovko @HZovko who despite the #SLAPP lawsuits against him did not give up. #Journalismisnotacrime https://t.co/0yP26Ux14v— ECPMF (@ECPMF) August 26, 2020
Civic Space Developments