More than two hundred journalists gathered on Tuesday for a march from the headquarters of the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) to the Ministry of Culture protesting against deteriorating freedom in the media and demanding that Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic steps down.

"The incumbent government is doing everything to disable media freedom and independence of journalism. Everything we have been warning of has fallen on deaf ears in the Ministry of Culture headed by Zlatko Hasanbegovic. The government, parliament and the President have turned a deaf ear even to international appeals supporting the Croatian Journalists' Association. That is why, today on World Press Freedom Day, we decided to hold this peaceful protest and show that we will not allow the government, regardless of which government it may be, to behave in this way," HND president Sasa Lekovic said.

He underscored that he was satisfied with the number of people who had turned out for the protest to show their support for the HND, however reporters, particularly those on the national broadcaster, HRT,have not turned up in fear of losing their jobs.

Protesters laid down their pens in front of the ministry under a banner with the UN human rights charter and the constitutional article guaranteeing freedom of the press, as a symbolic gesture to show that the government is downplaying these guaranteed rights.

HND has previously on World Press Freedom Day warned of the level of media freedom and since the last change of government, that freedom is as its lowest level in the past 25 years.

At a conference entitled "The problems with media freedom in Europe" on Monday Lekovic underscored that the latest warnings by the international community expressing concern with the state of media freedom in Croatia, were the result of the behaviour of the new government which is rejecting dialogue and is adopting contentious decisions, such as withdrawing support to non-profit media, exploiting HRT as "war booty" and recruiting "obedient" editors and reporters.

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