Croatia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Croatia

Croatia

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Partly Free

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

39

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

15

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

14

Freedom of the press is enshrined in the constitution; however, media outlets are still occasionally influenced by various political and economic interests. Last year's changes to the criminal code eased the threat of prosecution by decriminalizing defamation except in cases when expression is used with intent to harm someone's reputation. Yet according to the Croatian justice minister, these reforms have not been fully implemented, as some judges have a problem accepting them, and libel remains punishable by fines and, in some cases, imprisonment. In November 2005, Rijeka's municipal court sentenced a reporter from Novi List to two months in prison and one year of probation for publishing a satirical article about the chief of staff at the local mayoral office. The same month, the municipal court in Zagreb handed down a five-month suspended sentence to Croatian writer Predrag Matvejevic for publishing an article in 2001 accusing several journalists of spreading ethnic hatred during the presidency of Franjo Tudjman. The case was brought to court by one of the journalists singled out in Mr. Matvejevic's article.

The issue of war crimes remains a sensitive topic in Croatia, and journalists face pressure and intimidation if their reporting challenges the virtue of Croatia's role in the Balkans conflict. In December, Drago Heidi, editor of the satirical weekly Feral Tribune, received death threats linked to an article the paper had published about a former Croatian soldier who admitted torturing and killing Serbian civilians during the war. Later that month, a popular TV show on state television, Latinica, which in one of its weekly episodes discussed the legacy of late president Franjo Tudjman and allowed critical views of the Croat's role to be expressed, was in the center of heated debate in the Parliament. The show's anchor, Denis Laitin, was dismissed after the episode; he was reappointed only after a public campaign. Another issue involved the surveillance by the Counterintelligence Agency of five journalists amid allegations that they were conspiring with foreign intelligence services. A parliamentary working group started an investigation and acquitted the journalists on March 15, condemning the violation of their human rights.

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 is the market leader at the national level, and the state remains the single largest media owner. The press has increasingly been used as a tool by media owners to promote their business and political interests. Some media owners believe that "doing favors" for government officials and fostering a good relationship with the government is good for their business; they then exert pressure on journalists working at their media houses. A number of journalists alleged in 2005 to have received pay cuts after they published articles out of line with the political views of their higher-ups. The state does not restrict the foreign press or internet use, but relatively few Croats are able to afford these sources of information.