Croatian politicians are using SLAPP lawsuits to silence journalists

The Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA) warned on Wednesday of a new wave of lawsuits against journalists and the media, highlighting lawsuits by former Minister Tomislav Tolušić, former MP Branimir Glavaš and University of Zagreb Rector Damir Boras.

Ironically, on the very day when CJA warned about this problem, the Municipal Court in Zagreb issued a non-final verdict according to which the Telegram news portal must pay former Agriculture Minister Tomislav Tolusić almost 4.000 euros  because thye wrote about how he filled in his  property card incorrectly.

“A new wave of lawsuits is happening, among which series of lawsuits by former Minister of Agriculture Tomislav Tolušić against Telegram and Virovitica.net stand out. Branimir Glavaš also joined the lawsuits against Index, and Rector Boras sued journalist Dora Kršul for a story that was made according to all the rules of the journalistic profession “, said HND President Hrvoje Zovko at the press conference.

CJA has launched a campaign against new intimidation of the media and journalists with SLAPP lawsuits, as at least 1,163 lawsuits were recorded last year. According to the latest poll, by May this year, there were 905 active lawsuits, in which prosecutors  were demanding almost nine million euros from 18 media outlets and journalists.

But now a new wave of lawsuits has been filed by individuals, some of whom are at the head of important institutions, posing a major threat to freedom of journalistic reporting.

“They solve any criticism of their work by filing lawsuits, as a form of intimidation of journalists and imposition of censorship,” Zovko said, announcing that the CJA would inform the European Federation of Journalists and international institutions about the new wave of lawsuits.

The editor-in-chief of Telegram, Jelena Valentić, presented the details of the new series of lawsuits, with as many as nine lawsuits by former Minister Tolušić, among which some are “exotic”.

Local media under pressure from “local sheriffs”

Tolušić also sued us for using adjectives about his construction of a ‘magnificent’ winery, for which he spent 594.000 euros and that  he was heavily indebted because his monthly obligations amounted to 2.000 euros,” Valentić said.

CJA Vice President and Editor-in-Chief of the Virovitica.net portal Goran Gazdek warned that local media are especially exposed to pressure and lawsuits from “local sheriffs”.

“Two active lawsuits by Tolušić for texts about concealed property that we transferred from Telegram – 5.280 euros. “Tolušić’s private lawsuit is due to a comment in which I called Đakić, Kirin and him ‘kabadahis of the Virovitica pashaluq’ – 180 daily incomes, which is approximately 5.000 euros,” Gazdek said.

He is also facing a lawsuit filed by SDP MP Romana Nikolić because his portal reported that in 2009. she was convicted of threatening a party colleague, which was reported by the media on several occasions. However, as rehabilitation occurred for this criminal offense, and therefore “she must not be called to account”, Nikolić is demanding almost 3.000 euros.

As a curiosity, he emphasized the threat of a lawsuit that Ogportal.com received from Tomislav Madžar, former advisor to the president Grabar Kitarović, because he called him “the bearer of the state bag”, in the text transferred from the net.hr portal, and the request for publication of corrections states “Inaccurate, unfounded, malicious and offensive information.”

‘They are counting that we would have to hire lawyers and defend ourselves in courtrooms so we may not have time for new stories,” Gazdek said.

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