Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Freedom of the press is enshrined in the constitution, and it is generally protected in practice. Amendments to the criminal code in 2006 eliminated imprisonment as a punishment for libel, leaving fines as the only sanction. Government officials occasionally use libel laws against the media. Croatian journalists have also faced contempt-of-court charges at the UN International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Previous cases have involved the revelation of information on protected witnesses, but in 2007, the ICTY summoned several journalists for questioning on the leak of a confidential annex to the indictment of three high-profile Croatian defendants. The document named senior public officials as unindicted participants in the alleged criminal enterprise at issue in the case. Press freedom advocates argued that the information was revealed in the public interest and that many of the summoned reporters had merely picked up the story after it was first broken by state-owned Croatian Radio and Television (HRT). Regulatory agencies such as the Council for Electronic Media are seen as politically independent, but critics have complained of poor professional standards and a lack of transparency in regulatory decisions.
State-owned media, which dominate the broadcast market, remain vulnerable to potential political interference. At least two journalists known for favoring the ruling party were appointed to key positions in state media in 2007. However, the outlets have generally operated with independence in recent years, and they complied with rules granting equal airtime to candidates and parties during the 2007 parliamentary election campaign. Croatian newspapers displayed their willingness to publish information embarrassing to the government in December, when photographs of Interior Minister Ivica Kirin on a boar-hunting trip with indicted war crimes suspect Mladen Markac led to Kirin’s resignation. Markac was supposed to have been confined to his home pending trial at the ICTY. Journalists are subject to occasional harassment by the authorities, physical threats, and violence, particularly when their reporting touches on Croatia’s role in the 1991–95 Balkan conflict. In January 2007, for the second time in as many months, burglars broke into the home of Globus magazine investigative journalist Gordan Malic, who had received death threats in the past. Robert Valdec, host of the television program Istraga on the private station Nova TV, received a series of death threats during the first three months of the year. Istraga regularly investigated criminal cases, including war crimes. Freelance journalist Zeljko Peratovic was arrested and held for one day in October, apparently as part of a probe into the leaking of state secrets involving war crimes.
HRT benefits from both mandatory subscription fees and revenue from advertising. In addition to the public broadcaster, two privately owned national television stations, more than a dozen smaller stations, and approximately 150 radio outlets compete for audiences. Small broadcasters are often owned or financed by local governments, leaving them open to political influence. Many Croats also have access to various European channels via satellite. Ownership of print outlets is increasingly concentrated in the hands of large media groups, including Europa Press Holdings (EPH), which is half owned by Germany’s Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung. Journalists reportedly practice self-censorship to protect the economic interests of owners and major advertisers. In June 2007, the investigative and satirical weekly Feral Tribune was shuttered temporarily after the government emptied its bank accounts to recover a tax debt; the paper resumed operations after EPH acquired it and took on the debt. The Tribune’s supporters noted that authorities had previously forgiven tax debts owed by state-financed outlets and that top advertisers had essentially boycotted the paper over its critical reports, crippling its finances. The state does not restrict the foreign press or internet access, and some 35 percent of the population used the internet in 2007.