Journalist surrounded and intimidated during corruption probe
I strongly denounce the verbal attacks and intimidation against Slobodna Dalmacija journalist Andrea Topić while working on an investigative story in #Croatia. See full statement here: https://t.co/lOn7Ocz7fk— OSCE media freedom (@OSCE_RFoM) January 25, 2020
On 23rd January 2020 a female journalist working for Slobodna Dalmacija, was attacked while investigating alleged corruption involving Croatia's Health Minister Milan Kujundžić. Andrea Topić had begun an investigation into the Croatian minister following reports of irregularities in his declaration of assets. As part of her investigation, the journalist parked her car on public land near Kujundzic's property to take photographs. She was then approached by several men who quickly surrounded her car. Although she made it clear that she was a journalist and explained her purpose, the men verbally attacked the journalist and intimidated her, forcing her to lock herself in her car and call the police. In an interview, Topić recounted the ordeal by saying:
"I opened the car door. Then the other workers came, four, five of them. All shouting and making a noise. Everyone was trying to force me to leave because the road belongs to ''their Milan''. They surrounded me. I was thinking about running away. I had nowhere to go. Every possible gap around me was cut off. Then I got in the car and slammed the door shut. In a panic, I couldn't find where all the locks inside were. Honestly, I've never needed that button more."
The Health Minister later stated that he did not know about the attack and condemned the actions against the journalist. Yet the incident, was highlighted by the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE) who called on Croatian authorities to investigate the attack. In a statement, they said:
"I urge the Croatian authorities to do their utmost to guarantee the safety of journalists and ensure that those who carry out such attacks are brought to justice."
The video below documents the confrontation.
Several peaceful protests have taken place in Croatia lately. Below are some examples:
- For the fifth year in a row, on Women’s Day, thousands of women joined the Night March in Zagreb. The main message of the 7000 women was to stop violence against women and increase public health services, such as access to abortion and to address the gender salary gap.
- Citizens of the city Rijeka took part in the Global Day of Protesting 5G Technology, with messages such as: "Health beyond profit”; "We are not anyone's experimental rabbits". The protest was peaceful and was a way for citizens to express their concern over the use of the 5G technology and the possible negative impact on human health.
- A protest titled "Stop Hate Speech and Intolerance" was held in Samobor in response to a recent outburst from HSS Party Chairman Krešo Beljak, who stated on social media that the former Yugoslav secret service had not killed enough Croatians. The protest was organised by a Homeland War veterans' association to express their disgust over the statements.
- The "Zagreb is calling you" initiative together with other associations and dissatisfied local citizens held a protest against the mayor of Zagreb, Milan Bandic. The protest was called after long-running corruption charges against the mayor sparked by a failure to include the views of citizens in Zagreb's planning.
- While the traditional carnival "Bakova povorka" in the town of Imotski was peaceful, members of the LGBTI+ community in the country expressed concerns that an effigy of a gay couple with a baby was burned during the parade. This incident comes right after the Zagreb Administrative Court issued a binding ruling in December 2019 to allow same-sex married couples to foster children, which was a first for the country. However, despite the ruling, the Zagreb Centre for Social Welfare rejected the LGBTI+ couple’s application to foster a child. The incident at the carnival was condemned by many as being a “shameful act”, but others claim that it shows that Croatian society is conservative and traditional which poses concern for the LGBT+ community and their rights in the country. A day after the carnival, MP Arsen Bauk filed charges against the event organisers.