Croatia follows Hungary, Slovenia and – lately – Poland in threatening media freedom. Panelists showed that problems in those countries are caused by systematic control of media sector, while in Croatia they are result of lack of any coherent media policy that might block further erosion of media. The result is, though, the same.
“The Government will firmly oppose the allegations for limiting media freedom, but to do so you do not need any pro-active measures. It is quite enough to ignore violations of transparency of media ownership and tolerate draconian sentences for defamation cases to enforce self- censorship, and that results in fatal consequences for media freedom”, says Slavica Lukić, Croatian journalist.
In 3rd year of EU membership Croatia is still straggling to rise above the model “Back to Europe where we have always belonged”.
Indicators of economic recovery are more result of great export and low prices of power then of consistent Governmental policies or evident benefits of being EU member state.
More direct foreign investments are not yet to be seen and standard of living is at late 90es level. Croatian neighboring states, EU members, build wire fences due to migration crisis and that is a reminder to fragility of “Europe without borders” concept. That too severely influences EU as trans-generation attractive project.
IREX publishes Index of Media Sustainability Report monitoring abilities and capacities for media sector sustainability of certain country analyzing all elements that might add to certain media system – quality of journalism, management effectiveness, legal frame supporting media freedom etc. Every country gains certain result on 0 – 4 scale, and Croatia gained 2,50 in year 2915.
Media monitors discussed those issues even before, but specific analyses of media and media freedom development in three years of Croatian membership in EU still does not exist.
“During access period Croatia had good will to present at least its better face by adjusting its laws with EU standards and demands, including those from media sector”, says one of the panelists. “After becoming a member state there have been no pressure from Bruxelles and no need for us to pretend we are better than we actually are!
In last eight years all major indicators have been reduced and media sector has been driven to the very edge of bankruptcy. Its major role – to inform citizens – is seriously undermined.
Panelists find that creating proactive policies is urgent and it has not been recognized by former social-democratic Government. Real problem is what new conservative Government will do; expectations are not optimistic.
When talking about attacks on journalists Saša Leković, Croatian Journalists’ Association president, specified cases of Domagoj Margetić and Željko Peratović, both considered to be attempted murders. Attackers on Peratović have been identified and apprehended, but motifs are still unknown. Attack on Margetić has not been solved yet. The Report emphasized that NGOs and professional organizations are efficient in reactions to all cases of threats and attacks on journalists.
Panelists are generally satisfied by existing legal frame protecting freedom of expression, but they find that bodies such as Electronic Media Agency should have more efficient system to monitor and sanction hate speech in electronic media. One of most evident examples of obstruction of media freedom is the fact that shaming has become criminal offence and that the Law sanctions even true information if they are harmful for someone and if court finds information not to be in the public interest. That is especially problem for investigative journalists. Panelists find that protection of journalists and other media professionals by their newsrooms and organizations are not adequate and that in court cases journalists are more or less on their own.
When asked about political pressure on media in Croatia panelists find that regulations protect media independency, but there are more sophisticated differences in application of regulations. They emphasized that public service general manager is to be approved by the Parliament, that makes public service autonomy rather questionable. Even self-censorship is not to be ignored, find panelists, and it is a result of economic pressures – published critical stories about major advertisers are very rare.
Transparency of media ownership seems to be very simple: Electronic Media Agency has listed them on its web site, but there is no guarantee that names on the list are actually people who are real media owners. Nearly all print media in Croatia are owned by local owner Europapress Holding or foreign Styria.
Market conditions to start new media are favorable, especially for print media (VAT for dailies is 5%, for weeklies 15% instead of usual 25%). But statistics show that salaries in the sector are declining and that average salary has declined for 30% compared to year 2007.
The Report specified violation of authors’ rights as a threat. There is largely used practice of copying texts and photos without any permission. Another problem is certain trivialization of media content: for example, avoiding information about important subjects perceived as “non-attractive” for the public. Because of the way media works today, young journalists have no possibility to specialize in certain sector.
Introduction of new weekly Telegram is a rare positive example of situation on the market, although it is not enough to stop negative direction.
You can find complete Index of Media Sustainability for Croatia in English here.
Source: media.ba, irex.org