Especially negative effects on freedom of expression have, according to Nils Muižnieks, criminal offences for defamation and he encourages the authorities to repeal all criminal provisions against defamation.
The Commissioner is concerned about acts of violence which have affected journalists’ freedom of expression and their role of “public watchdogs” which is valuable in every democratic society. Abrupt and numerous staff changes at public service media (HRT) and allegations of censorship prompted a number of concerns which the authorities must reflect upon and address, noted Muižnieks.
Muižnieks in his Report reminded Croatian authorities of their obligation to protect independency of national public broadcaster HRT and Electronic Media Agency, including depolitisation of their managing bodies’ elections. The Commissioner claims that the „Government’s request for termination of the broadcast regulator’s mandate and for the dismissal of its members seemed short of serious reflection“ and raised concerns of political pressure on this body.
The Commissioner further criticized the Government's decision to abolish state
subsidies for non-profit media as“they are important positive contribution to pluralism, the promotion of democracy, tolerance and multiculturalism“. He strongly encourages the authorities to revoke that decision and reverse the negative trends which have been perceived as attacks on pluralism and freedom of expression in Croatia.
Muižnieks calls on the authorities to live up to their positive obligation to initiate prompt, thorough and transparent investigations into all cases of physical violence or threats against journalists, and to bring the perpetrators to justice. Sanctions should reflect the seriousness of these offences and be dissuasive. The authorities are also urged to conclude promptly all pending criminal cases relating to assaults on journalists“, is said in the Report.
The Commissioner also reminds that Croatia in 2016 dropped from 54th to 63rd place on world media freedom index. That certainly shows Croatia is on a downward path.
Commissioner Muižnieks visited Croatia with his delegation April 25 – 29 this year. In the course of this visit the Commissioner held discussions with state authorities, national human rights structures and nongovernmental organizations.
The Report contains the Commissioner’s conclusions and recommendations addressed to the authorities of Croatia and is published on the Commissioner’s website along with the authorities’ comments.
Prevela: Vesna Arsovski