Following Prime Minister Andrej Plenković’s announcement of changes to the Criminal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code due to “leaking of information from files”, which create “political problems”, the Croatian Journalists’ Association today sent a complaint to Ombudsman Tena Šimonović Einwalter with the following content:
To the The Ombudswoman of the Republic of Croatia
Subject: Complaint about the announcement of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Andrej Plenković, on novelizing the law to criminalize the leaking as causing “political problems”
Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced on Monday, February 13, 2023, after the session of the broader HDZ presidency, that he would amend the Criminal Procedure Act and the Criminal Code to prevent the leakage of information from files and thereby criminalize the creation of “political problems.”
Prime Minister Plenković’s statement, reported by all the media, reads as follows: “Things like this, that leaking things cause political problems to us – this kind of leaks will not happen because it will be a criminal offense.”
The Croatian Journalists’ Association, a professional organization, warns that it is inadmissible to call information published in the media a leak of information, and criminal responsibility for revealing an official secret already exists in the law. There is also an exception for situations in which disclosure of an official secret is in the overriding public interest. What Prime Minister Plenković would change in the laws was impossible to realize from the statement.
Nevertheless, in it, the prime minister calls out the media for creating pressure on the independent action of the State Attorney’s Office in conjunction with “certain officials.” He also assesses that he is the object of hate speech, comparing his position as prime minister to that of the imprisoned Croatian citizens in Zambia. Therefore, it is not difficult to conclude who the prime minister names as the main culprit: journalists and media.
Such public pointing of the finger from the leading state official at the profession crucial for the functioning of democracy is not the first such case. It is repeated every time journalists and the media expose unpleasant truths about the wrongdoing of those in power. We, therefore, consider the amendments to the law announced by the prime minister to be a significant threat to free journalism and the right of journalists to freedom of reporting and access to information guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia (Article 38/3).