zlatko hasanbegović.jpg
Croatian Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic
Photograph: Hina/ Dario GRZELJ/ dag

The Human Rights House on Friday commented on Mirjana Rakic's resignation as chair of the Electronic Media Council, saying that the government "has taken charge of persecution and moved it from the streets to the Culture Ministry" whose head Zlatko Hasanbegovic had proposed that the government not adopt a report on the work of the Electronic Media Council in 2014 and that it dissolve it and relieve Rakic of her duties, which the government accepted.

Rakic, who chaired the Electronic Media Council and the Electronic Media Agency, resigned earlier in the day, citing unbearable pressure.

"I do not have the strength any more, what I and (members of the Council) have been exposed to is like terrorism, and I don't want Council members to be hostages to attacks on me. All has focused on me personally and all of this is beneath me. I can no longer allow such primitive attacks on my personal and professional integrity," Rakic said in a statement for Tportal that was carried by the Human Rights House.

In late January, around 5,000 protesters, led by Deputy Parliament Speaker Ivan Tepes, Velimir Bujanec and Marko Juric, "who are known for their radical rhetoric", protested for "freedom of hate speech" and against the Electronic Media Agency's decision to ban for three days broadcasts of the Zagreb-based Z1 TV station for hate speech, the Human Rights House, which brings together six nongovernmental organisations, recalled in a statement.

The protesters shouted the Ustasha salute "For the homeland, ready" and "Rakic, go to Serbia" outside the Electronic Media Council offices, and when Rakic received a delegation of the protesters for talks, Bujanec gave her a Chetnik cap, the Human Rights House said.

"In a normal, democratic country the government uses its instruments to prevent threats by thugs. Unfortunately, in today's Croatia the government has merely taken over persecution and moved it from the streets to the institution of the Culture Ministry, whose head Zlatko Hasanbegovic proposed that the government not adopt a report on the work of the Electronic Media Council in 2014 and that it dissolve it and relieve Rakic of her duties, which the government accepted," the Human Rights House said in the statement.

The pressure on the Electronic Media Council and Rakic was so intense that it prompted a response from the European Commission which has started monitoring that process, given the complete lack of government support for that independent regulatory body and its tolerance of pressures by some government members, the Human Rights House said.

It also said that a campaign of persecution was underway also at the public broadcaster HRT, Hina, in the non-profit media, the Croatian Audi-Visual Centre and other cultural and media institutions.

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