Source/Author: CJA
Source/Photo: CJA / Nikola Šolić

The Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA) today sent a letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, prompted by his announcement of a new Media Law on Friday in Split. The letter is presented below.

Dear Prime Minister Plenković,

We consider it necessary to respond to your statement given at the celebration of the anniversary of Slobodna Dalmacija in Split, where you stated that the Ministry of Culture and Media team is preparing a new Media Law and explained: “This will mark a step forward after about twenty years of the existing Media Law, and we are also considering new powers for the Electronic Media Council, thinking about respecting professionalism in journalism, and through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan, criteria for verifying data and the truthfulness of information.”

The Croatian Journalists’ Association reminds you that the last discussion with the Ministry of Culture and Media about the new Media Law took place at the end of 2021 when, as part of a working group, it submitted its proposals for a new overarching law to protect professional journalism. We still have no information today about what has been adopted from our proposals and what the final draft of the law, whose adoption the Government announces for this year, looks like.

The CJA supports, and has finally proposed, an independent regulator responsible for overseeing the implementation of the Media Law, as well as the Electronic Media Law because if such a regulator does not exist, the Media Law will remain a dead letter as it has been for the past 20 years. Except when it comes to filing lawsuits against journalists and the media.

When we talk about an independent regulatory body that should oversee the implementation of the two most important laws for media freedom and pluralism, then it cannot be a political body like the Electronic Media Council is today. We remind you that more than three years ago, in comments on amendments to the Electronic Media Law, we requested that the CJA, as the umbrella journalists’ organization, propose two members of the Council to the Croatian Parliament, or that the proposal for members of the body regulating compliance with media laws ceases to be the discretionary right of the Government.

We are also concerned about how the issue of lawsuits against journalists and the media (SLAPP) will be addressed in the Media Law, as announced by the Ministry of Culture and Media, considering that in the debate of the Council of the European Union, the Croatian government came out with a position that significantly dilutes the proposal of the European Directive to combat SLAPP.

We also warn that criteria for verifying information exist as an international professional standard contained in the Code of Honor of Croatian Journalists of the CJA, or in universal journalistic ethical principles, which all true journalists adhere to. Therefore, there is no need to rediscover long-established rules of the journalistic profession, especially if it poses a threat to freedom of speech, which, along with independent and responsible media, is another cornerstone of a healthy democracy.

Therefore, we believe that the tasks of the Government are as follows:

initiate the work of a working group preparing amendments to the Media Law and make its work transparent
finally ensure the real independence of the media regulator
finally ensure the real independence of editorial offices from owners, or management structures, by implementing the Media Law and respecting editorial statutes
through transparent allocation of public funds, finally ensure systematic support for the sustainability of those media outlets that operate in the public interest and responsibly fulfill their function of informing, educating, and socially integrating.
For the Executive Board,

Hrvoje Zovko, President of the CJA

Chiara Bilić, Vice President of the CJA

Dragutin Hedl, Vice President of the CJA