EBU.CH REPORTS – The EBU has reiterated the importance of independence for its Croatian Member HRT in the run up to the parliamentary elections in September.
An international media freedom mission to Croatia, led by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) and including representatives from the EBU, has highlighted government interference at the public service broadcaster as a key challenge to media freedom and media independence in Croatia.
A report, published by the group this week, pointed to mass staff restructuring and programming changes as evidence of “an attempt by the outgoing government to assert control over HRT for its own means”.
Over 70 journalists and editors have been demoted or reassigned at HRT since Croatia’s Parliament – which had been led by a coalition between HDZ and the Most party – fired the Director General in March and appointed an acting Director in his place.
EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre said: “It is essential that HRT is allowed to maintain its editorial independence to provide impartial and relevant news, especially in these important weeks leading up to the elections in Croatia. Freedom of the media is critical to a healthy democracy and we strongly encourage the Croatian government to respect that freedom.”
Among the most troubling findings in the Report is a rise in nationalistic and revisionist discourse within Croatia’s public sphere that is also being used to intimidate critical media. Leading public figures, including former HDZ Head Tomislav Karamarko, have openly expressed a desire to “get rid” of “leftist” media, while journalists and media houses that fail to demonstrate sufficient “patriotism” are routinely smeared by politicians and others as “traitors”.
The HDZ-Most coalition government collapsed in June, after less than six months in power, paving the way for the September elections.