Abuse on the rise against Croatian media as journalists targetted


The final months of 2016 brought a spike in attacks on journalists and media outlets in Croatia. On 13th December, prominent investigative journalist Domagoj Margetic was attacked in Zagreb by an unknown assailant. The attack came shortly after a right-wing news portal published an article drawing attention to Margetic's testimony during the War Crimes Prosecution Office in 2010. The article made particular reference to his role in exposing war crimes committed by Croatian security forces against Serbs in 1991 and 1992. While Margetic was treated for minor injuries from the assault, he quickly drew attention to the 'atmosphere of hate' in Croatia against journalists working on politically sensitive issues. In a statement, the European Federation of Journalists also commented on the heightened tensions: 

'This attack is just one in the chain of attacks against journalists partly due to the increasing intolerance in Croatian society and [the] lack of adequate reaction [from] relevant institutions. The [Croatian Journalists Association] CJA has constantly expressed worries about it...'

In an earlier incident on 20th October, Director at the Croatian news agency (Hina) Branka Gabriela Valentic, received an anonymous letter threatening her and smearing her as an 'anti-fascist whore'. On the 28th of November, Valentic and several other female journalists and the head of the Croatian Journalists' Association, Saša Leković, received a second threatening letter, written in a similar style to the first and containing insults. Many civic groups have called upon the Croatian authorities to conduct a thorough investigation into the ongoing threats.

While the Croatian Journalists' Association has played a crucial role in drawing attention to abuses against the sector, it has itself become a target. On the 28th October, it was reported that the car of the association's president, Saša Leković, had been tampered with after it swerved dramatically at high-speed on a motorway. While he managed to stop the car safely, he later discovered that two screws in the front right wheel had been half sawed, leading many to believe that his car was purposefully sabotaged. Leković's case has become emblematic of the regular threats faced by free speech advocates in Croatia. While the litany of abuses against the sector often prompts outrage in Croatian society, it rarely results in meaningful investigations or prosecutions; leading many to question the integrity of the Croatian authorities' and their ability to protect outspoken activists from abuse. 

In a separate incident in the city of Karlovac, on 23rd November unknown assailants wrote 'death to journalists' on the window of the offices of news website Kaportal and in two other locations.

Peaceful Assembly

A number of protests have taken place in Croatia in recent months. Nearly all of them took place without incident and were well facilitated by Croatian security forces: 

The police facilitated the exercise of all of these protests and demonstrations. While there were no unwarranted time and place restrictions imposed or requests denied, the leader of the radical right party and four others were arrested for shouting the Ustasha salutation and insulting the police.