The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) has sent a letter to Croatian members of the European Parliament expressing fear that independence of media and freedom of expression have been jeopardised, warning that the situation in this sector has additionally deteriorated with the arrival of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)-led Patriotic Coalition to power.
"Although on 1 July 2013 Croatia became a full European Union member-state after fulfilling all accession prerequisites, including those in the field of media and freedom of expression, the situation on that front is increasingly worsening and has further deteriorated with the arrival of the Patriotic Coalition led by the HDZ to power. Unfortunately, EU agencies have left all the care for independence of media and freedom of expression to national governments, which enables violations of the fundamental principles advocated by the European Union," the association said in the letter.
The HND recalls that in an interview last year with the Globus weekly, HDZ chief Tomislav Karamarko said that when his party comes to power, citizens will be free to think whatever they like when they are in their homes, but not in public places and that journalists will have to support such policy of his government.
"Mr. Karamarko has never retracted this statement, nor has he apologised to citizens of Croatia," the HND said.
The HND went on to say that "disciplining" of politically unsuitable reporters and media began as soon as the HDZ-led Patriotic Coalition came to power after the recent parliamentary election.
The HND reiterated its criticism of Zlatko Hasanbegovic as the new Culture Minister, describing him as "a historian who has shown publicly that he does not recognise anti-fascism as a fundamental tenet of the Croatian Constitution."
The HND also finds fault with Hasanbegovic for his decision to dissolve the ministry's Commission on Non-Profit Media only six days after he took office, and accuses him of doing it "ignoring the rules, without prior notice or explanation and without analysing the Commission's performance, falsely claiming that there is no longer any need for such commission."
The association recalls that Minister Hasanbegovic has stated that his ministry will no longer provide funds for non-profit media and that he has also said that dealing with media only makes his job of minister more difficult, although the minister of culture is obliged to care for a media policy, according to the letter.
The association says that Karamarko, who serves as Deputy Prime Minister in the new government, is now accusing media of vilifying current cabinet ministers although they provide evidence of the impermissible behaviour of ministers from the HDZ-led coalition.
The HND writes in the letter that Karamarko is accusing the HND leaders of insinuations when they ask him to apologise for his attacks on media and when they call for the culture minister's resignation.
The HND says that Karamarko and Hasanbegovic see nothing wrong with a recent protest against the temporary suspension of a local TV station for hate speech, which was led by the reporter who had used the hate speech and by a reporter known for his sympathy for the Independent State of Croatia, ruled by the Nazi-style Ustasha regime during the Second World War. The protest involved a deputy parliament speaker from a junior partner in the Patriotic Coalition, the HND says.
It also notes that no Croatian government has ever adopted a serious media policy or ensured legal prerequisites for activities of politically independent media or market competition for commercial media under equal conditions.
It also complains that none of the previous governments ensured strict compliance with the existing laws or the right of the public to have access to timely and full information in all areas of importance for decision-making and for election processes.