IFJ Protest letter on Political Pressure on Croatian Broadcaster

Stipe Mesic
President of the Republic of Croatia
Fax: +385 1 4565 191 / 299
[email protected]

Ivo Sanader,
Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia
Fax : +385 1 4569 210 / 316
[email protected]

CC José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission

21 December 2005

Your Excellencies,

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), representing over half a million journalists around the world, is deeply disturbed by reports of increased and overt political pressure being applied to the Croatian Public Broadcaster Hrvatske Radiotelevizija (HRT).

According to our information, last week HRT came under sustained attack from members of the governing political party, the Croatian Democratic Party, during a parliamentary debate on the broadcasters’ annual report. It is also reported that a number of journalists and editors received death threats following particularly hostile criticism of the programme Latinica. The most severe criticism was reserved for a recent show which had discussed the legacy of former President Tudjman, providing opportunities for both supporters and critics to air their views.

These latest reports come shortly after the editor of the programme Otvoreno, Tihomir Ladisic, was removed from his post for conducting a debate on the role of the Croatian Army during the Bosnian conflict. This show had also come under sustained public assault by politicians

According to Croatian law, parliament has no control over HRT’s programming decisions, which are supposed to be left solely to the Programme Council. Such political attacks, however, are clearly designed to intimidate journalists into censoring their shows and towing the political line of the government in power.

The IFJ joins the protests of its affiliate, the Croatian Journalists Association (CJA), in condemning these attacks and the dramatic increase in political pressure on the public broadcaster and calls for an immediate end to the intimidation of editors and journalists by politicians.

The IFJ and CJA further calls upon the government to issue a public statement that re-affirms HRT’s independence, launches a review of the Ladisic case and ends political criticism of HRT’s programming policy.

The IFJ and CJA believe that this interference will intimidate editors into changing editorial policy and restricting their criticisms of government figures and, ultimately, undermine Croatian democracy.

Journalists must be able to work independently and free of interference, political or other, if they are to perform their role of informing the public and acting as watchdogs on power. Attempts to intimidate editors into changing editorial policy and restricting their criticisms of government figures undermines Croatian democracy and the public interest.

Kind Regards

General Secretary, IFJ