Croatia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Croatia

Croatia

Freedom of the Press 2005

2005 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)

37

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

13

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

13

Freedom of the press is constitutionally protected. Croatian media have gained substantial freedom, and the government has adopted important legal changes in the last few years. A new media law was passed in April 2004 that aims to protect independent media, but a provision stipulates that sanctions can be carried out against journalists who refuse to reveal their sources. Libel remains a criminal offense in Croatia, and two journalists were sentenced to suspended prison sentences for criminal libel during the year. In July, a newspaper editor narrowly escaped a prison sentence for refusing to pay a high fine for libel. Fearing international criticism, the justice minister paid his fine. A large number of libel cases remain unresolved owing to an inefficient judiciary. Implementation of the 2003 Law on the Right to Access Information has been insufficient, and the Croatian Journalists Association reports that access to information deteriorated in 2004.

Government cooperation with the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) at The Hague and other sensitive political issues are still difficult to cover for state-run and local media outlets. Several reporters were physically attacked this year, and one reporter claimed to have received death threats. There were no arrests for the 2003 shooting of a broadcaster owner and the car bombing of an influential publisher. Two separate incidents involving the harassment of journalists by the Counterintelligence Agency (POA) shocked media organizations. In November, a journalist came forward and stated that she was held against her will, threatened, blackmailed, and interrogated about the president's activities. Earlier in the year, four journalists filed complaints claiming that the POA had conducted surveillance against them and accused them of espionage because the journalists had reported on the whereabouts of an indicted war criminal. After each instance, the POA director was replaced.

Approximately 150 radio stations and 15 television channels operate in Croatia, and 2 out of 3 national television stations are private. However, state-owned Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) is the market leader on the national level, and the state remained the largest media owner. The government does not restrict the foreign press and Internet use, but few Croatians are able to afford these sources of information. The law regulating transparency of media ownership is still not fully implemented, and print media remain susceptible to owners' political and business interests. Most local media are still at least partially owned and financially dependent on local officials. HRT has yet to transform from a state to a public broadcaster, and this year there were reports of government officials attempting to influence HRT's reporting. A cabinet minister threatened to impose a value-added tax on the subscription fee for HRT, and the speaker of the parliament complained about HRT's coverage and threatened to make changes to the law governing HRT.