The Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA) and the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (TUCJ) express their deep concern and dissatisfaction with the proposed introduction of a new criminal offense in the Criminal Code, which refers to the unauthorized disclosure of the content of an investigative or evidentiary action concerning a participant in the proceedings. We believe that such a proposal can be called a law with dangerous intentions because it represents a serious threat to the journalistic profession and free journalism.
Although the Ministry of Justice and Administration claim that the goal of the proposal is to protect the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy of the defendant and other participants in the proceedings, it is difficult to ignore that this change is happening at a very sensitive political moment, right before the 2024 super election. Such a context raises suspicions that the authorities are using the aforementioned legal solution to stop the unpleasant leakage of information that is of public interest.
Although journalists are expressly excluded as persons who could be held criminally liable by such a law, it is evident that it will be impossible or at least difficult for them to report in the media on criminal proceedings and the prosecution of politically exposed persons. By accepting this proposal of the Criminal Code, journalists would be put in a situation where they would be pressured to reveal their sources, and the question can rightly be asked whether all the communications of our colleagues will be checked in order to find out who broke the law. and disclosed information from the investigation.
We remind you once again that the initiative to introduce a new criminal offense came from the political elite at the beginning of this year, after the transcripts of the conversation in the case of Josipa Rimac, in which high-ranking officials of the ruling party were mentioned, were published. Then Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced that leaking information would become a criminal offense.
“Situations like this, where someone uncontrollably, deliberately, politically, selectively, and arranged things from the files go out to us, cause political problems and girls, that will not happen because it will be a criminal offense,” Plenković, the most powerful political figure in the country, said at the time.
Croatian citizens should be aware that the application of this law will seriously limit media coverage of important affairs and ultimately deprive them of information of public interest. Such a legal solution would represent a new exhaustion and intimidation of journalists and the media, i.e. – like SLAPP – another form of judicial abuse aimed at limiting the freedom of reporting and the right of the public to be informed about the actions of the authorities.
For the CJA Executive Board, Hrvoje Zovko, president of CJA
For TUCJ, Maja Sever, president of TUCJ