- This is a great victory for me, my family and my lawyer Vanja Jurić, to whom I am immensely grateful, and another proof that we have been telling the truth all along. I would like to thank everyone who believed in me, who testified the truth in court. I must underline that the final verdict lost by HRT is also a defeat of the policy pursued by that very same public media service during the term of director Kazimir Bačić, a former resident of Remetinec (Zagreb County Prison), during which time all these lawsuits were filed against me. This is a great victory for CJA and the journalistic profession. The verdict confirms the real situation at HRT, more precisely at the department of Information Program, which many have been warning about for years - said the president of CJA, Hrvoje Zovko, commenting on the decision of Zadar County Court.
The verdict further states that Zovko gave the statements considered controversial by HRT only after he received an extraordinary dismissal and that HRT completely ignored "the decisive fact in this dispute, i.e. that after the extraordinary dismissal of the defendant they were the first to go public and that the statements of the defendant that followed were in fact, a reaction to the plaintiff's (HRT) statement listing the reasons why the defendant received an extraordinary termination of his employment contract." Also, according to the verdict, the motive for making the statements considered controversial by HRT was correctly determined – the said statements represented a justified response to HRT's malicious attempts to discredit Zovko in public.
The testimonies of witnesses Marko Stričević, Stipe Alfier, Sanja Mikleušević Pavić and Maja Sever, as well as the testimony of the very defendant - that Zovko gave controversial interviews after the extraordinary dismissal and HRT's public announcement of said event - were assessed by the court as directly convincing and sincere, and based on them, established facts on the working atmosphere and environment of the plaintiff (HRT) which were such, in the long period preceding the disputed statements of the defendant, that a large number of persons, including the defendant, could come to the conclusion that there is a certain degree of limitation of employees in unhindered expression and exchange of opinions and ideas.
The court ruled in favour of the mentioned witnesses and did not accept the testimonies of witnesses Katarina Periša Čakarun and Ankica Posavljak, who explained in their testimonies what the editorial policy on HRT looks like, which, according to the prosecutor, is completely different from censorship. They claimed that their colleagues, journalists and editors with many years of experience in journalism, "do not understand what editorial policy means and are therefore inclined, when their proposal to address a topic is not accepted, to claim that they were being censored."
The second-instance court verdict further states that the fact that several employees of the prosecutor express their dissatisfaction with the editorial policy should be appreciated, so in that case it could not be someone's subjective feeling, but a problem in the functioning of the prosecutor's office as a public service, as well as that the act of expressing views on the operation of HRT as a public service cannot be disputed in this procedure, because the plaintiff is financed with money collected from the HRT national fee; it is a public medium that creates and influences public opinion, which was rightly appreciated by the court of first instance.
Finally, the court rejected the plaintiff's request that the defendant pay their claim for damages in the amount of HRK 250,000, together with the corresponding statutory default interest from the date of filing the lawsuit on December 7, 2018 until payment, and to publish the verdict in the first next issue of Slobodna Dalmacija, after the verdict becomes final, as well as on the internet portals Jutarnji.hr, Telegram.hr and Večernji.hr in integral form, without any comments or text shortenings, and that, at his own expense, Zovko should announce the verdict during the show "Dogmatica" or within the program of television Z1, as well as in the show "Studio uživo" on N1 television, without any comments or abridgments.
The court also ordered the Croatian Radio and Television to reimburse Hrvoje Zovko for the costs of the civil proceedings in the amount of HRK 19,375, within 15 days.