saša leković.jpg
Photograph: HINA/ Tomislav PAVLEK/ lsd

Croatian Journalists Association (HND) president Sasa Lekovic on Friday strongly condemned the government's proposal for the parliament to dismiss all members of the Electronic Media Council and its chair Mirjana Rakic, saying that it was yet another step by the new government towards gaining absolute political control of the media and "an institutional rape of procedures and laws."

Speaking at a panel discussion at the HND, Lekovic said that the latest developments were in line with a statement by the leader of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), Tomislav Karamarko, given in May 2015, when he said that once the HDZ came to power, "citizens will be able to say what they want, but in the privacy of their homes."

"The next decision is the non-adoption of the report on Hina's work. One should say that according to some estimates, 50% of news items in the Croatian media are actually Hina's news items that are copied by many web portals and other media," Lekovic said, noting that there was no media strategy in the country.

The CEO of the GONG nongovernmental organisation, Jelena Berkovic, said that the government's latest move was "a landing operation on the media scene" and a return to the 1990s, which she described as very unsettling.

She described as interesting the fact that the budget proposal for this year included almost no allocations for non-profit media, adding that time had come for the public and citizens to defend critical thinking and journalism and that she hoped freedom of the media would "not fall without any resistance".

The head of the Croatian PEN Centre, Nadezda Cacinovic, said that the latest developments regarding Croatian Radio and Television and the Electronic Media Council could be symbolically described as "decision-makers having opted for (Velimir) Bujanec over Mirjana Rakic."

The strong reaction of the HND president, the GONG CEO and the president of the Croatian PEN centre came after the government on Tuesday gave a negative opinion of a report on the work of the Electronic Media Council and the Electronic Media Agency in 2014 and proposed that the parliament replace all their members due to gross failures in fulfilling their legal obligations.

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