Sechs Pressefreiheit-Organisationen besuchen Kroatien

Sechs Pressefreiheit-Organisationen besuchen Kroatien

Eine Delegation von sechs Organisationen, die sich für Pressefreiheit einsetzen, besuchten vergangene Woche Kroatien. Rubina Möhring, Präsidentin von Reporter ohne Grenzen Österreich, war dabei. Ziel des dreitägigen Besuchs war unter anderem, die politische Führung in Kroatien aufzufordern, die Unabhängigkeir des Öffentlich-Rechtlichen Senders HRT zu garantieren. Im Folgenden eine Zusammenfassung in Englisch.

A delegation of six press freedom organisations concluded a three-day
mission to Croatia by calling on the country’s political leaders to
guarantee the independence of the public broadcaster HRT as well as of the
national electronic media regulator.

Members of the delegation said the next Croatian government should act
swiftly to reform the current law governing HRT, which does not provide
sufficient safeguards against undue political influence over the
broadcaster’s operations and output. Delegates specifically highlighted as
problematic the process for nominating HRT’s director-general via a
parliamentary vote. Public service broadcasting should not be controlled
by party politics.

Professional standards and a balanced approach to news and content at HRT
will be tested in the run-up to parliamentary elections scheduled for
September. The delegation underscored the need to ensure respect for
European standards on the editorial independence of public broadcasters
during this period.

In a meeting with the delegation on June 21, Croatian President Kolinda
Grabar-Kitaroviã indicated she supported efforts to protect HRT’s
independence. The broadcaster, long a model of professionalism in South-
East Europe, has recently come under scrutiny after new leadership
appointed by Croatia’s outgoing governing coalition reassigned some 70
journalists and editors in key positions, according to station employees
and journalist groups. While staff restructuring had also occurred with
previous government changes – a pattern the delegation said should stop –
the speed and breadth of the changes suggests a political motivation at
odds with the mission of a public-service broadcaster.

In addition to the audience with Grabar-Kitaroviã, the delegation met with
Acting Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegoviã, who insisted that there were
“no limitations” on media freedom in Croatia, despite increasing
international concern.

Led by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), the delegation
met numerous representatives of government, media, journalists’
associations and civil society to ascertain the situation of media freedom
in the newest EU member state amid an atmosphere of political polarisation
and what some view as a rise in nationalist sentiment. Croatia is
currently governed by a caretaker cabinet after a troubled five-month old
coalition between the right-leaning HDZ and the centrist Most party
collapsed earlier this month.

The mission met directly with HRT representatives as well as RTL
Televizija, one of the country’s two main private broadcasters;
journalists or editors from various media outlets including Index.hr,
Jutarnji list, Nacional, Novi list, Direktno.hr, H-Alter.org and the HINA
national news agency; and with the Croatian Journalists’ Association
(HND), the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (TUCJ) and a recently
formed splinter group, the Association of Croatian Journalists and
Publicists (HniP).

Following a meeting with Mirjana Rakiã, president of the Croatian
Electronic Media Council (EMC), delegates also expressed deep concern over
the Croatian government’s failure to publicly stand behind Rakiã after she
and the EMC were the target of a protest earlier this year in which
participants – including the deputy speaker of Parliament – hurled hate-
filled slogans and symbols alluding to Rakiã’s Serbian ethnicity. The
protest was a response to an EMC decision taking a broadcaster off-air for
three days for violating hate-speech rules. Rakiã later resigned, although
Parliament has not acted to accept her resignation.

Mission participants also expressed dissatisfaction with the failure of
Croatian authorities to fully investigate physical attacks on prominent
journalists and hold the perpetrators accountable. These include the 2008
beating of Jutarnji list journalist Duðan Miljuð and a vicious 2015
assault on award-winning reporter Þeljko Peratoviã.

“It is unacceptable for violent acts against journalists to be met with
impunity in an EU member state,” SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic
said. “We are disturbed by the lack of progress in these and other cases
and call on the authorities to send a signal that violence against the
media will not be tolerated.”

The delegation plans to publish a full report on the mission and on key
challenges facing freedom of expression and media freedom in Croatia
around the end of July. New elections in the country are scheduled to be
held in early September.

In addition to SEEMO, the delegation also includes representatives of the
European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the European Federation of Journalists
(EFJ), the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), the
International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders Austria
(RSF).

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