The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) said on Thursday it was shocked by a Virovitica Municipal Court sentence against journalist Ivan Zada as well as recent sentences against the media in which the plaintiffs are members of the ruling HDZ party, adding that it would notify the international public.
On November 6, the Virovitica court gave Zada a suspended sentence of four months with one year's probation for recording without authorisation a phone conversation with HDZ MP Josip Djakic and posting part of it as a transcript on Facebook and the Index.hr website. The sentence may be appealed.
The conversation took place in October 2018 after Djakic's son Ivan threatened Zada that he would "break his neck" or "pay someone in Zagreb €500 to do it."
Zada said he called Djakic to tell him that "because I was afraid for my safety and the safety of my family," and that he told Djakic he was a journalist.
The HND believes the sentence is not in line with European standards of protection of freedom of expression because that was not a private conversation and that state officials' communication with journalists is always of public interest.
The HND has been concerned about other recent sentences against the media in cases in which the plaintiffs were HDZ members.
HDZ vice president Milijan Brkic was recently awarded HRK 40,000 in damages pending appeal over an article in Vecernji List daily which criticised him.
The Split Municipal Court recently delivered a sentence against Slobodna Dalmacija daily over journalist a comment by journalist Andrea Topic on inventor Luka Vukovic, who was awarded HRK 30,000 in damages. The court ruled against the newspaper because Topic mentioned that Vukovic is a member of the HDZ, which is in power in Split county, and implied that he received money from the county budget for one of his inventions because of that.
In particular, the HND criticised the part of the sentence in which judge Maja Anusic said that a column "cannot state something that cannot be defended in court" such as "positions, opinions and ideas."
The HND said it would notify the international public that journalists were being given suspended sentences in a EU member state which would chair the EU in the first half of 2020.
(€1 = HRK 7.4)