By ending program of grants to non-profit media the Ministry of Culture, that has helped the third media sector to become stronger in last three years, left without any income 280 journalists by the end of September. The future of 20 non-profit media with 30 journalists employed and 250 journalists employed on part time bases has become uncertain.
That is the result of Zlatan Hasanbegović, Minister of Culture of departing Government, at the so called technical Government, actions. In January this year he cancelled the program of co-financing non-profit media as well as the Expert Council that decided on co-financed media; he even suspended program of supporting community media. The Ministry in former term had 30,6 million kunas (cca 4 million euros) from European Social Fund. By Hasanbegović's actions the programs that partly helped to stop the trend of professional journalists to become members of mass of unemployed and of complete social and economic collapse of journalistic profession were stopped.
In spite of widely spread ideas that those portals have been spending tax payers’ money, we would like to point out that non-profit media have been co-financed by some 3 million kunas (400.000 euros) by Croatian Lottery income, which is not included in the state budget. Those modest financial means have been enough for some portals to employ 1 journalist on average with salary of 4000 kunas (550 euros) net. Fees for part time journalists have not exceeded several hundreds kunas a month.
Non-profit media are important as they cover topics of social importance the commercial media hardly have interest in. That model of financing non-profit media was of interest to European Federation of Journalists as well as to other media organizations during their delegates paid visit to Croatia not long ago, praising it as rare positive actions in Croatian media sector.
The way Mr. Zlatko Hasanbegović managed the Ministry of Culture, especially when it comes to media sector, we find threatening for democracy and pluralism. A gigantic step backwards has been made when it comes to media freedom and freedom of expression, while revisionism has been encouraged. It led to anti-democratic and totalitarian ideas to become accepted. By appointing Zlatan Hasanbegović a Minister reputation of Croatia has been internationally severely damaged.
CJA expects the future Croatian mandatory to seriously consider the person for new Minister of Culture as he/she should in short period repair the damage done by acts of departing Minister. He systematically refused any communication, let alone co-operation with all media and cultural sector in general, communicating only with his like-minded whose main characteristic is exclusivism and intolerance regarding others and different.
CJA insists new Minister to solve great problems of media and to open dialog with the CJA (being professional association of journalists) as well as with other media representatives to produce media strategy balanced with best democratic practices; we expect that strategy to have solution for systematic support for the third media sector.
Saša Leković, CJA president