President of the Croatia Journalists’ Association Threatened with Dismissal

Update: 15 Mar 2021 No state reply yet
Year 24 Sep 2018 Country Croatia Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat Non-state Partner EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , ECPMF , Index Alert level Level 2
24 Sep 2018 Croatia Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Non-state EFJ/IFJ , AEJ , ECPMF , Index Level 2
No state reply yet

On 12 September, journalist Hrvoje Zovko, president of the Croatia Journalists' Association (CJA), decided to resign as deputy editor-in-chief of public TV channel HTV4. Hrvoje Zovko has been a journalist and an editor for public TV HRT for 20 years. Zovko explained in a statement the reasons for his move, citing pressure, censorship and unprofessional choices of topics. On 13 September, Zovko's editor-in-chief, Katarina Perisa Cakarun, accepted his resignation, while criticizing his trade union involvement as chairman of CJA. On 14 September, the management of HRT decided to launch a dismissal procedure against the journalist, on the basis of a report by Katarina Perisa Cakarun. CJA called on the management of HRT to stop the dismissal procedure, which is seen by CJA as an act of retaliation against Zovko, and an act of intimidation against all HRT journalists affiliated to CJA.

Updates

15 Mar 2021 : On 9 March 2021, HRT confirmed that it had again dismissed Hrvoje Zovko, for alleged violent behaviour in the workplace. Zovko did not receive an official notice terminating his employment.
13 Nov 2020 : On 13 November 2020, the third case initiated by HRT against Zovko was rejected by a court of first instance. The court held that the testimonies of the defendant and numerous witnesses were “accepted as directly convincing and sincere” and that the “working atmosphere and environment in the period preceding the disputed statements were generally such that a large number of persons, including the defendant, could reasonably conclude that there is a certain degree of restriction of HRT’s employees in unhindered expression and exchange of opinions and ideas.” It ordered HRT to reimburse Zovko for HRK 19,375 in litigation costs.
28 Aug 2020 : On 25 August 2020, the Rijeka County Court rejected an appeal by HRT against the Zagreb Municipal Labour Court judgment of 29 October 2019, ruling that Zovko must be reinstated as editor-coordinator within eight days and compensated for lost income lost and interest.
29 Oct 2019 : The Zagreb Municipal Labour Court ruled on 29 October 2019 that Hrvoje Zovko had been fired unlawfully by the Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) public broadcaster last year. According to the ruling, which may be appealed, Zovko is to be reinstated as an editor at HRT.
17 Sep 2019 : On 17 September 2019, the president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND/CJA), Hrvoje Zovko was officially informed of a third lawsuit launched by the Croatian Radio-Television HRT against him. This third lawsuit filed by the public television administration against the president of the HND/CJA is based on alleged defamation (criminal offense under Article 149 of the Criminal Code).
11 Jun 2019 : In February 2019, the Zagreb Municipal Court held a preparatory hearing in the proceedings initiated by HRT against HND/CJA. A peaceful settlement to the dispute was proposed by HRT.
09 Jan 2019 : The management of the Croatian Radio-Television HRT filed a lawsuit for alleged criminal offences against its honour and reputation by the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND/CJA), its President Hrvoje Zovko and the President of the HND/CJA Branch at HRT, Sanja Mikleušević Pavić. HRT claims a financial compensation of 500,000 kunas (67,000 EUR). The Western Balkan’s Regional Platform for Advocating Media Freedom and Journalists’ Safety asked the HRT to withdraw the filed lawsuits as soon as possible and to stop pressuring HND/CJA, and harassing representatives of the journalists’ association.

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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July 2018