When in a serious, well-regulated country, the prime minister who actively shows that he cares about the freedom of the media and the integrity of the journalist sends a letter, a telegram or an email to the newly elected president of the journalistic association, this can be considered a proper, protocol gesture.
But when the prime minister who is mocking journalists and accuses the media of leading the war against him, publicly sends a congratulatory message to the newly elected president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, (HND), through a national media agency, it is a clear political message.
It is precisely that kind of a message sent by Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to the new President of the HND Hrvoje Zovko. The public congratulations of the prime minister to the elected leaders of the journalistic association in Croatia happened at the time of SFRJ when politicians were even invited to the sessions of the Assembly of the Journalists’ Association.
When I was elected President of the HND in April 2015, I did not receive congratulations from the then Prime Minister Zoran Milanović or from Kolinda Grabar Kitarović several months earlier elected as the President of the Republic of Croatia. I invited politicians to debates about media (but they did not respond), but never to the HND sessions.
How can I get a congratulation card or a call for a conversation from the SDP Prime Minister when I publicly stated that, the guilty ones, for the poor state of media freedom and the position of journalists, alongside the HDZ, are the SDP’s governments, including Milanović’s, which among other things, amending the Law on HRT additionally pushed the public media service into the hands of politics. Also how can I get the president’s congratulation card when I publicly claimed that it was shameful that at the inauguration of the President of the Republic, honorary guests were accused of war crimes and promoters of NDH and fascism.
I also reacted fiercely when the president said that the offenses and threats received by the victims were actually their own fault (including journalists). From her office, I stopped receiving calls for protocol meetings. Until then I received calls, but regularly with a day or two delay, when the meeting had already been held.
When Milanović was replaced by Orešković, and in fact Karamarko‘s government also did not have any connections between the HND and its highest officials. And how can they be, when I, after Karamarko’s statement that when he and his come to power, Croatian citizens will be able to speak and think what they want in their four walls, publicly warned that this is a dangerous statement that announces an uncovered attack on freedom of expression. When Karamarko falsely attacked the media and journalists, I publicly accused him of lying.
As soon as Zlatko Hasanbegović was proposed to the Minister of Culture, I publicly opposed it, warning that it would be a catastrophe that the Minister of Culture becomes a person who denies the antifascist spirit of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia. When Hasanbegović became a minister, I warned that everything was destroying, and nothing building, including a shameful “blitzkrieg” against non-profit media that were not ideologically close to him. Therefore, he not only sent me no congratulations, he even lied that he did not receive an invitation to an international media conference that I invited him to.
Shortly after Prime Minister Andrej Plenković became a member of the Committee on Information, Computerisation and the Media of the Croatian Parliament, I spoke about the attacks on journalists and the responsibility of politicians. The Cerberus of the ruling people interrupted me, and after the speech I was insulted. Opposition representatives kept silent.
Zlatko Hasanbegović was replaced by Nina Obuljen Koržinek at the ministerial post, and the new prime minister refused to receive me to discuss topics important for the media and journalists, forwarding this task to the Minister of Culture and the Minister of Finance.
The Minister of Finance never had decency to answer, and the Minister of Culture received me twice during overlapping of our mandates. She did it after my persistent insistence (because communication with her was still operationally important). Of course, it never occurred to her to inform the public about those contacts or show that the HND is important.
Moreover, the minister personally and her associates tried leave minimum traces of any communication with me, so often only after a few of my written requests for some information from the Ministry of culture there would be- a phone call. For example, on the question why there are no more Work Group meetings on the creation of a community competition competition criterion or on search for information on who all were candidates for new appointments to the Electronic Media Council.
And how could it be any different when I prevented the Ministry of Culture from opening a tender for more than 30 million kunas from the European Social Fund intended exclusively for non-profit media, on which, according to the minister’s idea, commercial media might apply.
Then in April of this year I asked to stop the work of the Working Group for the Draft Electronic Media Act at the Ministry of Culture, warning that it was insane to work on changing a media law before adopting a media strategy and a comprehensive analysis of the whole set of existing media laws.
I did all of the above while I was a President and on behalf of the HND. Finally I warned that in the Ministry of Culture an informal group out of reach of the public and without the participation of the HND is working on something that should act as a long-promised media strategy. I did it by posting on Facebook because I was no longer at the head of a journalist association so I had no other option but to react publicly.
When I resigned from the position of the President of the HND, many at the Government , the Ministry of Culture, the Agency / Electronic Media Council, the Parliamentary Media Committee were relieved …, as well as the various Cerberus of the ruling party, but neither the opposition was sorry.
And how would they not rejoice when in less than two years of documented claims I even brought to Croatia an international mission that has both times established that all remarks regarding the freedom of the media and journalists were accurate and specifically warned at the declining of HRT.
How would they not rejoice when they know that I know that the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister could not find the appointment for the talks with Harlem Désir, the new OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, son in the end that meeting was not even held. How would they not rejoice when they know that I know that the Prime Minister, the Minister of Culture and HRT’s leadership recently speak with the Director General of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), Noel Curran, not only about what their PR had “planted” to Hina from these closed meetings, but also on the unpleasant issues arising from the report on the above mentioned international mission.
When all this is known, the public Prime Minister’s congratulations to the newly elected President of the HND, it’s really hard to read differently than a clear political message. I am looking forward to see the respond of the new President of the HND Hrvoje Zovko.