Ombudswoman deplores COVID demonstrators’ assaults against reporters

NEWS 21.11.2021 12:02
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Source: Marko Prpic/PIXSELL/ilustracija

Ombudswoman Tena Simonovic-Einwalter on Saturday evening condemned in the strongest terms the violence and assaults against TV crews that were covering the march organised by anti-vaccine certificate protesters in Zagreb earlier in the day.

Simonovic-Einwalter said in a press release that she condemned attempts by demonstrators to prevent reporters from doing their job while they were covering the rally in Zagreb’s main square.

She also urges the authorities, including the law enforcement authorities and the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH), to thoroughly investigate the incidents and violence so that perpetrators can be held to account. In this way, society will receive an unequivocal message about zero tolerance to violence against anybody, particularly against persons who do their job in the interest of the public, Simonovic-Einwalter said.

The freedom of expression and particularly the freedom of the press is guaranteed by the constitution, she recalls.

Freedom of assembly and the right to peacefully assemble do not exclude other human rights and they also do not justify verbal, physical and other violence, she writes in the press release.

A reporter of the RTL commercial broadcaster, Goran Latković, was attacked by two unidentified persons from behind as he was covering the rally, and they slapped him across the face twice, while a third person hit him in the rib cage.

Also, Nova TV and HTV crews were verbally assaulted at the rally, while a group of protesters took Al Jazeera reporter Nikolina Zavišić’s microphone as she was reporting live.

On Saturday evening a group of protesters moved from Zagreb’s central square to the part of the city where the HRT public broadcaster is located, demanding to see the HRT director and have their rally covered live and calling for an end to “censorship” by the HRT.

Dissatisfied with the way the HRT covered their protest in the central city square at 3 p.m., the protesters shouted “We want elections”, “Referendum and people’s rule”, “Thieves”, “Treason”, “God’s law is above all laws”, demanding to see the HRT director and have their rally covered live. “This is no vaccine, this is poison”, someone in the crowd could be heard saying while some protesters said the world was ruled by “Bill Gates, Talmudists and Soros’s followers”.

The protesters were met by riot police, with a dozen police vehicles blocking access to the HRT building.

Violence against reporters condemned by office-holders, associations, political parties

The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) and the Croatian Journalists Union (SNH) on Saturday strongly condemned an attack on RTL reporter Goran Latković at the protest, demanding a prompt police investigation and calling on the government to unequivocally condemn the incident.

The attacks by protesters on media workers were also condemned by the government spokesman, the minister of culture and the Office of the President.

The Istrian Democratic Party (IDS) said on Saturday evening that the freedom to assembly did not include the right to violence and said that the attacks against reporters “resemble dark times” and called on all the political parties to stand up for the protection of the journalistic profession.”

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