Concerned about media diversity in Croatia, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemns a campaign of lawsuits and verbal attacks that Croatian nationalist groups have been orchestrating for several months against Novosti, the newspaper of Croatia’s Serbian minority.
Published by Croatia’s Serb National Council, Novosti is a left-wing weekly with a reputation for professional journalism that contributes to media pluralism in the once troubled region. Serbs constitute about 4% of Croatia’s population.
A group of Croatian nationalist veterans based in Split have brought a complaint against Novosti journalists Boris Dezulovic, Victor Ivancic, and Milorad Krstulovicover after a series of articles that the newspaper published last year.
The complaint accuses them of inciting hatred and in particular of “promoting intolerance towards the Croatian people and the Croatian state.” The veterans group has also called on the authorities to cut off Novosti’s public funding. This would lead to its closure because the newspaper survives on subsidies.
In February, an ultra-conservative nationalist group called “In the Name of the Family” held a news conference outside parliament at which it accused Novosti of inciting hatred against the Croatian people and called on the Council for National Minorities to suspend its funding and thereby force it to close. It also launched a petition for Novosti’s closure.
Other organizations have come out in support of Novosti and have condemned the newspaper’s stigmatization by nationalists as an “enemy of the state.”
“The articles by these journalists pose no threat to the Croatian nation, as these groups would have us believe,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “On the contrary, it is the campaign to silence the journalists that endangers democracy in Croatia. This campaign of intimidation and stigmatization inflicts grave harm on the freedom to inform and on media pluralism.”
Ever since a coalition led by the conservative Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) has been governing in Croatia, journalists’ associations have voicing concern about the state of media freedom in the country and have been calling for an end to attempts to throttle independent media outlets.
Last year saw an increase in violence against members of the Serbian minority in Croatia, which is ranked 63rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.