Activists in Croatia Unite to Defend Media Freedoms


Journalists and activists protest the government’s media crackdown in Zagreb on May 3, 2016. The sign reads, “Silence is Golden.” “Zlat(k)o is a play on words, referring to Minister of Culture Zlatko Hasanbegovic (photo: Branko Radovanović, Creative Commons).

In response to a crackdown on media freedom, a coalition of NGOs including GONG (a Coalition member), Center for Peace Studies, Human Rights House Zagreb, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and Blueprint for Free Speech has launched a public campaign to defend freedom of expression.

Public funding for certain non-profit media and NGOs is expected to be dramatically cut, the government has meddled in media staffing and programing decisions, and the Expert Committee for Non-Profit Media has been disbanded.

The main target of the NGOs’ campaign is newly appointed Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović, who has been linked to a range of neo-Nazi organizations and publications. Hasanbegović reportedly has defended Ustaše, a fascist group that killed hundreds of thousands of Jews, Roma, Serbs and others during World War II. More than 3,500 artists, cultural workers and citizens have signed a public appeal calling for Hasanbegović’s dismissal.

Hasanbegović was appointed in January 2016 by center-right Prime Minister Tihomir Orešković despite his fascist links and scant background in


Protesters gather in downtown Zagreb on May 3, 2016.

cultural affairs. One month after assuming office, Hasanbegović announced: “my position…is that there is no need to continue giving grants to any non-profit media outlet within the Culture Ministry policy.”

Among the groups that have called for his ouster or criticized his positions are the Croatian Journalists’ Association, Trade Union of Croatian Journalists, Platform 112, International Federation of Journalists, European Federation of Journalists and the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

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