The European Broadcasting Union (EBU), an international alliance of public service media, has urged the Croatian government to make sure that the national broadcaster (HRT) will maintain its independence in the run-up to the parliamentary election set for 11 September.

The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND), on Monday released a statement about the EBU appeal sent to Zagreb.

"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," the EBU has stated on its web site.

A report published after the delegation of SEEMO and the EBU concluded its mission in Croatia "pointed to mass staff restructuring and programming changes" which is labelled as evidence of "an attempt by the outgoing government to assert control over the HRT for its own means".

In order to corroborate this statement, the EBU said that "over 70 journalists and editors have been demoted or reassigned at the HRT since Croatia’s Parliament – which had been led by a coalition between HDZ and the Most (Bridge) party – fired the Director General in March and appointed an acting Director in his place."

EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre was quoted as saying that "it is essential that the 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."

According to the EBU, "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 (Croatian Democratic Union) 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'."

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