Open letter from CJA to the President of the Croatian Financial Services Supervisory Agency, Ante Žigman.

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Source/Author: CJA
Source/Photo: CJA

Dear President of the Administrative Council, Mr. Žigman,

I am writing to you on behalf of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA) with an open letter in response to your arbitrary decision to exclude journalist Valentina Wiesner, who has been covering the finance sector for years, from an event where she intended to question its purpose and goals.

Specifically, this concerns the conference “Consumer Protection in Insurance and Pension Savings – EU Strategy and Croatian Practice,” held on August 28, 2023, at the Esplanade Hotel in Zagreb. Journalists were not allowed to publicly ask questions to the participants as part of the official program. Prior to this, as alerted by colleague Wiesner, who is also the President of the Supervisory Board of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, she was the only journalist removed from the list of sectoral journalists to whom you sent a repeated invitation prior to the conference.

In this manner, as a public institution regulating the financial sector, you grossly violated the constitutionally guaranteed right of journalists to freely report, thereby censoring the public’s right to open discussion about why representatives of consumers were not represented at a conference on consumer protection, an undoubtedly matter of public interest.

Additionally, we emphasize that the conference was funded with public money, given that HANFA is funded by management fees charged by entities under its supervision. Furthermore, according to colleague Wiesner, journalist Danko Družijanić, whom you engaged to lead the conference and who is an employee of the Croatian Radiotelevision, during the conference – by prohibiting the asking of journalistic questions – stated that he was acting as a representative of the organizer.

As our colleague warned us, the event was recorded. There are witnesses to these events, and we remind you that, according to Article 27 of the Media Law, paragraph 1, journalists have the right to express opinions on all events, phenomena, persons, objects, and activities. Article 38 of the Constitution guarantees freedom of thought and expression and prohibits censorship. Journalists have the right to freedom of reporting and access to information. The right to access information held by public authorities is guaranteed, restrictions on the right to access information must be proportionate to the nature of the need for restriction in each individual case, and necessary in a free and democratic society, and prescribed by law. Furthermore, Article 127 of the Criminal Code, paragraph 1, states: Whoever denies or restricts freedom of speech or public appearance, freedom of the press or other means of communication, or the free establishment of public communication institutions shall be punished by imprisonment for up to one year. Paragraph 2 states: Whoever orders or implements censorship or unlawfully denies or restricts a journalist’s freedom of reporting shall be punished by the penalty prescribed in paragraph 1 of this article.

It is unacceptable for a public institution, the regulator of financial institutions, to arbitrarily exclude a journalist who follows them sectorally from an event she questions, and we cannot characterize this in any other way than an attempt at censorship.

Sincerely,

Hrvoje Zovko

President of CJA