What is the state of the Croatian media? And what could the government and the institutions do to improve the situation? OBCT asked Hrvoje Zovko, the new president of the Association of Croatian Journalists (HND).
by Giovanni Vale , Zagreb
Hrvoje Zovko, born in 1970, has been the new president of the Association of Croatian Journalists (HND) since last summer. For over twenty years, he worked at Croatian public television HRT, but was fired a couple of months ago. We asked him to assess the state of the press in Croatia.
What happened? Why this dismissal?
What happened is that I denounced censorship within HRT and, because of that, I clashed with my editor-in-chief, Katarina Periša Čakarun. It all started with a story about the internal conflicts of the HDZ [the ruling conservative party, ed.] on the occasion of the announcement of a protest in Vukovar, held in October, against the non-prosecution of war crimes. That event was showing once again how prime minister Andrej Plenković’s party is crossed by various currents and I wanted to cover this. I was forbidden to do it.
But why the dismissal?
This is an unlawful dismissal and I will prove it in court. I was fired shortly after arguing with the editor-in-chief of HRT’s information programme. I heard about the dismissal from the media, while I was at a press conference at the Association of Croatian Journalists, where they were discussing my case. I was accused of being “aggressive” and physically attacking Periša Čakarun – which, of course, has never happened. I would like to point out that, in 21 years of working at HRT, I have never been warned, let alone punished, for my behaviour. Hence, after what happened, I decided to sue HRT and the trial is still ongoing.
What do you think is the real reason for your dismissal?
In addition to my denouncing censorship, what annoys the HRT leadership is the fact that I became president of the Association of Croatian Journalists. Croatian public television, today, does not have a good opinion of HND; in fact, it is much closer to HNIP (Hrvatsko društvo novinara i publicist), an association that has nothing to do with journalism and was created just before the HDZ’s return to power and the formation of the government of Orešković and Karamarko [in 2016, ed.]. Two years ago, about 80 HRT editors and editors-in-chief were dismissed within a couple of days – something unprecedented in the history of this country – and replaced by members of HNIP. In short, as far as I’m concerned, I had to make a choice: either HND or HRT. And my dismissal is a message for all those who still work in Croatian public television and a direct attack on HND.
What is the situation inside HRT today?
It’s a horrible situation. Those appointed by Karamarko in 2016 have done nothing but carry out the agenda of the government and the Catholic Church. Dozens of colleagues, excellent journalists, have decided to leave, moving first to NovaTV or RTL and more recently to Al Jazeera and N1. The audience decreased abruptly, while HRT became the government’s spokesman. There is no longer any investigation, no more room for criticism. Finally, in the national public television programme there have also been cases of historical revisionism related to the Independent State of Croatia [the puppet State allied to the Nazi-fascists and led by Ante Pavelić during the Second World War, ed.] and no one has taken responsibility for this.
This publication has been produced within the project European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, co-funded by the European Commission. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso and its partners and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Union. The project’s page
The article was republished from Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso Transeuropa with permission. It was originally published on 14 November 2018.