Government doesn’t need to save journalism, just ensure quality media legislation

After the Annual meeting of the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård, Secretary General Ricardo Gutiérrez, President of the Croatian Journalists ‘Association Hrvoje Zovko and President of the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists Maja Sever held a meeting with the Prime Minister Andrej Plenković and Minister of culture and media Nina Obuljen Koržinek.

The President of TUCJ Sever emphasized that she was glad that a meeting had taken place after 5 years of trying to arange it. She also said that CJA and TUCJ are not asking the Government to save journalism, but to pass legislation that would ensure free and safe work of journalists and development of quality investigative journalism.

Therefore, TUCJ and CJA warned once again that the Government has the possibility of additional changes to the Penal Code which would remove the article of violation of honor from the criminal to the misdemeanor level. They welcomed the work of the working group for SLAPP lawsuits and the efforts to go in the direction of additional education of judges, but we believe that this step in the legislation should be taken.

It was requested that the independent work of the regulatory body be ensured, and with the example of the procedure for awarding a radio concession to Radio 101, they emphasized that the manner of electing members, and then the work of the Electronic Media Agency, shows how big this problem is.

In addition to presenting the fact that the crisis in public service management is so deep that HRT currently has no director because the previous one is in custody, but also that relevant research shows that trust in public service media is very low, representatives of umbrella media organizations reminded of the pre-election promise to change the legislation regarding HRT and they requested changes to the entire media legislation, starting with the Law on Media.

They argued the need to change the media regulations with an example, ie the problem of applying the statute in newsrooms. CJA has been warning for years that amending the law to reduce taxes to meet publishers, subject to the introduction of the statute, but to date there is no mechanism to monitor or punish non-compliance with this provision.

Sever also warned that the system of co-financing local media is catastrophic and causes complete dependence on local authorities. She informed government officials that TUCJ and CJA are working on new models. We must protect workers’ rights with collective agreements, Sever continued, and in Croatia there are only two in media houses, and the Government should create an atmosphere that is supportive for the work of unions, and with the mediation of the Ministry of Culture and Media support the opening of negotiations on a national collective agreement.

She stressed the need to address the protection of workers’ rights of freelancers who do not exist for our regulations, and employers are increasingly engaging journalists in such precarious work engagements. In the fight against hate speech, Sever added, the representatives of the Government could contribute to the support of journalism, and not by joining the wave of criticism that journalists are to blame for everything because they report on news that may not be good.

She warned that since quality journalism cannot be financed only from market revenues, TUCJ and CJA believe that talks should be opened on a system of direct public support that will encourage journalistic work, not profit, and that TUCJ wants to participate in creating the content of tenders for distribution of funds from the European Union for media recovery because we believe that journalists have the right to define their demands, not just publishers. EU funds must be aimed at saving journalism, quality journalism, not only media houses and their owners, concluded Sever, and finally asked whether the Croatian government had established cooperation with the International Federation of Journalists and agreed to admit journalists from Afghanistan.

At least 924 SLAPP suits are currently active in Croatia against the media and journalists, from which prosecutors are demanding almost HRK 78.5 million, said Hrvoje Zovko, adding that we are the only country where the public service is suing a member of a professional organization, Sanja Mikleusevic Pavic, for publishing official statement of the CJA branch at HRT. He reminded that Mikleušević Pavić had received a lawsuit together with the CJA for a statement from September condemning omissions such as the affair with the resale of tickets for the World Cup. In this lawsuit, HRT is asking HRK 200,000 from CJA and HRK 50,000 from Sanja Mikleušević Pavić.

EFJ President Mogens Blicher Bjerregård supported the work of umbrella media organizations and stressed the good cooperation, emphasizing the importance of joint fight against SLAPP lawsuits with the request to decriminalize the provision of infringement of reputation and honor, but also protection of journalists’ copyrights through quality legislation. Secretary General Ricard Gutiérrez explained that they are here to fight for the protection of journalists and journalism, and that it is precisely for the protection of democracy that it is necessary to protect and strengthen quality journalism.

Prime Minister Plenković spoke about the importance of independent and professional journalism for democratic processes in every society. He added that Croatia is in the process of passing new media laws and the National Media Development Plan. In October this year, a new Law on Copyright and Related Rights was adopted, which for the first time defines journalistic copyrighted works as part of the catalog of copyrighted works, but also ensures the protection of journalists’ copyrights in the digital market.

The Prime Minister informed that the Ministry of Culture and Media has formed a Working Group to combat SLAPP lawsuits, but also that it is planned to provide new mechanisms for financing professional journalism, including through the National Recovery and Resilience Plan.

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