Local newspaper fires journalists for criticising political bias; PM continues to attack journalists
The Government Office for Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) started drafting a new strategic document for the development of civil society in Croatia. The National Plan for Creating an Enabling Environment for the Development of Civil Society 2021-2027 presents the policy of the Government of the Republic of Croatia, i.e. the goals to be achieved in the normative, financial and institutional environment for the development of civil society. The plan will be developed by a working group comprised of government, academia and civil society representatives.
On 29th May 2021, the sixth "Walk for Life" was held in Zagreb, which, according to the organisers, gathered thousands of people in support of protecting life from birth to natural death. The motto of this year's procession was “For the protection of every human life, without discrimination”. This year, for the first time, it was also held in Imotski. A counter-gathering was organised, advocating for reproductive choice and calling on the government to pass a new abortion law. Both protests were supervised by the intervention police.
The second annual Pride Ride, a protest by cyclists in support of LGBTI rights, was heldin Zagreb on 5th June 2021. While this event took place peacefully, the 20th LGBT+ Pride march, held a month later in Zagreb, faced "fascist violence" for the first time in a decade, according to organisers.
“For the first time in ten years, on the day of the Pride Parade of the LGBTIQ community, Zagreb Pride, there was an outbreak of homophobic fascist violence," said the Zagreb Pride organisation in a statement.
Violence broke out in the Croatian capital over the weekend as assailants attacked participants at the march. The police arrested several people oververbal and physical attacks on some participants and the burning of a rainbow-colored LGBTI flag. Prime Minister Andrej Plenković strongly condemned the violence.
In a separate development, activists protested against the illegal construction and devastation of nature in Vruja, Dalmacija. The participants organised an unusual protest known as the “Festival of Illegal Construction” consisting of activities such as art exhibitions, yoga, swimming and singing. Protesters have also started a petition to stop the investor from buying the state-owned land.
Similar to the previous reporting period, citizens in Zagreb have protested the epidemiological measures in place to tackle COVID-19, the controversial COVID-passes and the calls for vaccination. Under the slogan “A cry for freedom” (Krik za slobodu), over 1,000 people marched peacefully across the city, monitored by the police, without incidents or interventions.
After the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) won the local elections on 30th May 2021, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković accused the media of being "mercenaries who disgust one's political option" and of “being paid to vilify a political camp”. The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (TUCJ) strongly condemned the Prime Minister’s public vilification of the media, his interference in the editorial policy of national commercial televisions RTL, Nova TV and N1, and the pronouncing of journalists and analysts who reported on the local elections. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) joined HND in condemning the attacks and accusations.
“What we consider unacceptable… are the open threats PM Plenkovic has made against all our colleagues and media which do not follow his and the HDZ’s ideology. To name all those who critically speak about candidates ahead of elections and to mark as targets “those who dishonour for money” is not a discourse used by politicians, let alone prime ministers of civilised and democratic EU countries,” the HND and SNH said.
In addition, another verbal attack was also registered and condemned by HND, this time by Brodosplit Tomislav Debeljak, owner of the Split shipyard, who attacked Mario Jurič, reporter of Nova TV, who reported on the shipyard’s financial challenges. President Zoran Milanovic also attacked and shamed a journalist participating in the construction protests in Vruja.
A female journalist was physically attacked at the Pride Parade in Zagreb. Police reacted and arrestedthe attacker. The HND president attributed the attack to the hostile atmosphere journalists work in. Hrvoje Zovko, president of the Croatian Journalists' Association, said:
“This is proof of the atmosphere in which our colleagues work, and let's not forget that they work in an atmosphere where they are accused of being guilty of everything by journalists and the media....It is time for those who dare to attack journalists just because they are doing their job to know that they will be held accountable for their actions. The journalistic profession is in the public interest and will remain so " (translated from Bosnian).
Three journalists from the media outlet Glas Istre were handed extraordinary dismissals after openly criticising Glas Istre's unprofessional and biased editorial policy during the pre-election campaign. The journalists, some of whom have been working for the media outlet for over 20 years, were dismissed on the grounds of being political activists promoting certain political options, which the journalists claim is not true. HND and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) called the dismissals “shameful and scandalous”. Over a thousand citizens joined a protestin Pula to support the journalists from Glas Istre.
#Croatia: three journalists dismissed from local daily Glas Istre after criticizing its editorial policy. ⬇️https://t.co/YL6OQdGyIL— ECPMF (@ECPMF) June 19, 2021
In a report on the rule of law, the European Commission raises concerns about the continuous threats against journalists in Croatia and the high number of strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPPs) targeting journalists. In addition, it notes that delays in the processing of access to information requests from journalists persist and that the political independence of media outlets, especially at the local level, is undermined by state advertising.
Civic Space Developments