President of the Republic of Croatia
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Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia
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José Manuel Barroso
President of the European Commission
Mr Galic, HRT Director
Sdenk Ljevak, HRT Programme Council President
Vladimir Ronevic, HTV News Programme Editor
20 January 2006
Dear President, Dear Sirs,
The European Federation of Journalists is deeply concerned by a number of events involving Croatian Journalists during the second half of 2005. In particular, the EFJ appeals for the immediate reinstatement of Tihomir Ladisic, who was suspended as presenter of the “Otvoreno” show in October 2005.
On 8 October, Ladisic, presenter of the “Otvoreno” show broadcast by the Croatian Public Broadcaster HRT, was suspended following heavy criticism by members of the ruling Croatian Democratic Party, HDZ, and the Croatian Legal Party. They questioned the editorial policy after the Ladisic hosted a debate on the role of the Croatian army in the Bosnian conflict.
Following public protests by the Croatian Journalists Association and the EFJ, the Programme Council of HRT reviewed his case but was unable to come to a conclusion and the suspension continued. A replacement for Ladisic was appointed on 30 November.
Ladisic has not been informed of his suspension in writing nor have any official reasons been provided. Despite assurances that Ladisic would be re-employed as a political commentator elsewhere, to date he has not been provided with information on his future assignments.
In December HRT came under further attack from members of the HDZ during a parliamentary debate on the broadcaster’s annual report. The most severe criticism was reserved for the Latinica programme and a recent show which had discussed the legacy of former President Tudjman, providing opportunities for both supporters and critics to air their views.
Denis Latin, the show’s presenter, was also suspended. However, he was later reinstated following an intense public campaign, including a nationwide petition “Tolerance and media freedom” protesting against political interference.
In another disturbing development Drago Hedl, Editor of the Feral Tribune, is now under police protection after receiving death threats for his investigations into crimes committed around Osijek during the war.
Following a review of the recent developments in Croatia by the Steering Committee of the European Federation of Journalists (18/19 January), the EFJ joins the protests of its affiliate, the Croatian Journalists Association, in condemning the dramatic increase in political pressure on the public broadcaster.
The EFJ calls on HRT to take immediate measures to reassure the Croatian public of its independence and commitment to public service journalism by reinstating Ladisic to his former position and forcefully rejecting the political pressure and attempts to silence its journalists.
The EFJ and CJA further calls upon the government to issue a public statement that re-affirms HRT’s independence, condemns all forms of threats against journalists and respects the right of Croatian Journalists to work free and independent of all forms of pressure.
The EFJ Steering Committee will continue to monitor the situation and has asked the Croatian Journalists Association to provide a report to its annual meeting due to take place in Slovenia in April 2006.
Aidan White, General Secretary European Federation of Journalists
Arne König, Chair, European Federation of Journalists