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Croatian Journalists Reject HRT’s ‘No Censorship’ Claims

Hrvoje Zovko, president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, HND, told BIRN on Friday that he rejected the claims of the Director General of Croatian Radio and Television, Robert Sveb, and the Croatian Minister of Culture and Media, Nina Obuljen Korzinek, that the public broadcaster was not subject to censorship.

He said that verdicts of Croatian courts had proved censorship, including the verdict in the case that the broadcaster, HRT, initiated against him after he made statements asserting censorship at HRT.

HRT lost a court case in February 2022 against Zovko, who it sued for defamation after he spoke publicly about censorship on HRT.

The session of the Parliamentary Media Committee was convened on Thursday at the request of opposition members after former HRT journalist Dragan Nikolic gave an interview to Istra24 portal.

In it, he said that in the spring of 2016, his documentary, The Russian Wall, was “taken down” from being broadcast on prime time on HTV1 and, after a “compromise” process, was instead broadcast on HTV4.

At the session, Sveb said HRT was often accused of censorship but not a single accusation had been proven in court. “There is no censorship on HRT, nor has HRT ever sued or been sued for censorship,” he said.

Minister Obuljen Korzinek meanwhile said she was unhappy with how the session was convened, and condemned what she called “political attacks on HRT directed by the united opposition”.

Addressing the debate on censorship on HRT, she said an independent fact-checker would surely define claims that “censorship has been confirmed in court” as fake news.

In the court case “HRT against Zovko”, the court ruled in favour of Zovko but the explanation of the verdict did not mention the word “censorship”.

Zovko cited the verdict to BIRN, which upheld “the existence of a certain degree of limitation of employees in the expression and exchange of opinions and ideas”.

“The verdict is a precedent because it was the first time that censorship was confirmed by a court. It’s unbelievable that everyone is ignoring it,” Zovko told BIRN.

Zovko also recalled testimonies about censorship at HRT published in the online activities of the Croatian Journalists’ Assocation, HND, during the campaign, “HRT for everyone, not just them”, at the end of 2021.

Maja Sever, president of the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ, was present at the parliamentary committee.

“It was evident in the performance of Robert Sveb and the Minister that they deny censorship on HRT. When asked by members of parliament if he had talked to me about censorship, the director stated that he had talked about pressures and had referred me to the competent authorities. The competent body is the Ethics Committee in whose work the HND representative has not participated for years due to an extremely bad code that needs to be changed,” Sever told BIRN.

After hours of discussion, Mirela Ahmetovic, from the opposition Social Democratic Party, SDP, proposed a conclusion that “a well-founded suspicion of the existence of censorship and self-censorship on HRT has been established”.

But the proposal was rejected by the majority of the members of the committee.

Source: Balkan Inisght