2010 Progress Report on Croatia: Media freedom still hampered
On November 9 the Commission adopted its 2010 Enlargement package which includes a Progress Report for Croatia as a candidate country. The section of the Report that examines the progress made by Croatia towards meeting the Copenhagen political criteria notes that, although freedom of expression (including media freedom and pluralism) is provided for by the Croatian laws and is generally respected, editors and journalists continue to report undue pressure from political and economic interest groups. There has been limited progress in investigating threats against journalists who work on cases of corruption and organised crime (only one case about the assassination of two prominent journalists has been processed so far). In addition the report identifies how the public service broadcaster, Croatian Radio Television (CRT), continues to face serious managerial difficulties following several unsuccessful attempts by the CRT Programme Council to elect a new director. This is affecting CRT’s functioning and restructuring processes. The independence of the local press has also been scrutinised following accusations that some dailies (e.g. a regional daily ‘Novi list’, Rijeka) and a number of local radio stations have been bought by the business partners of the ruling party with financial sources of unclear origin.
The Report shows that Croatia has improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership: there is a good degree of alignment with EU rules in most sectors. However, Chapter 8 on Competition stresses that anti-competitive state aid to the national broadcaster should be suppressed. The Croatian authorities initiated the process of amending the Croatian Radio Television Act (CRTA) in line with the aquis. In April 2010, the draft CRTA caused heavy debates due to proposed changes in the financing of CRT, limitations on its advertising, and introduction of state control in CRT’s Programme Council and Management Board. A new draft is currently being prepared for second reading in Parliament.
In Chapter 10 on Information Society and Media it is stated that efforts are needed in order to strengthen the capacity of regulators to enforce the existing legal framework. In this respect the number and the professional capacity of the employees of the Electronic Media Agency, as an independent regulatory body in the field of electronic media, are to be increased. The Report highlights that “political will and technical efforts are needed to sustain liberalisation of all segments of electronic communications markets, to yield tangible results in terms of development of the information society and to promote competition on the broadcasting market and the independence of the public service broadcaster”.
The findings of the Progress Report show that media freedom in Croatia has not been fully achieved in the last decade. Freedom House reports give the country a status of ‘partly free’ during this period. The regulations are not fully enforced and, as it has been shown in the MEDIADEM report on Croatia, there are difficulties in the (re)structuring of the media market. It seems that there is still a lot to be done in order to establish and consolidate free and independent media in Croatia.
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