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Open Season on Journalists in Croatia: Death Threat Graffiti

In another example of journalists increasingly becoming targets, reporters in Croatia are facing growing intimidation, graffiti declaring “Death to Journalists” with the government staying strangely silent, even after attacks, Reporters Without Borders said.
In a statement, the group decried a series of threatening messages sent to Croatian journalists recently were intended “to attack, intimidate and smear journalists to the point of dissuading them from pursuing their mission to report the news,” reported Balkan Insight.
The statement condemned what it called the Croatian government’s “oppressive silence” about the incidents, and asked: “Are the Croatian words ‘Smrt novinarima’ [‘Death to journalists’] going to become commonplace in Croatia?”
The group also noted that the same phrase was written in August on the outside of a news website’s offices in the coastal city of Zadar and near the Zagreb headquarters of the N1 TV channel and two websites, Net.hr and Telegram.hr, in March.
More recently, in the popular coastal city of Split, graffiti called “earthworms,” a few days after eggs were thrown at a car belonging to Slobodna Dalmacija journalist Andrea Topic. Topic had already been threatened last yeae, with a tire on her car punctured, the news site said.
“Several police investigations have been opened with the aim of identifying those responsible for the anti-media graffiti but the Croatian authorities have remained astonishingly silent about them and other recent attacks on journalists,” the reporters group said, noting that authorities last year didn’t prosecute a person who posted death threats on the Facebook page of journalists at news website Index.hr.
Pauline Ades-Mevel, the head of Reporters Without Borders’ European Union and Balkans desk, said that the Croatian authorities must explicitly condemn such incidents. “Doing nothing is tantamount to giving a free rein to those who threaten the media,” Ades-Mevel said.
Her group quoted Hrvoje Zovko, the President of the Croatian Journalists’ Association, HND, who said there are constant attacks against journalists “from sectors ranging from the Catholic Church to politicians” and that the government has said nothing about them.
“It’s open season on journalists,” Zovko said, pointing out that has included an attack on Croatian reporter Daniel Majic (from Germain daily Frankfurter Rundschau) by far-right TV presenter Velimir Bujanec at a trip by Croatian nationalists and neo-Nazis to the Austrian border town of Bleiburg in May. Croatia, which takes over the symbolic rotating European Union Presidency in January, is ranked 64th out of 180 countries in Reporters Without Borders’ 2019 World Press Freedom Index annual rankings.
Social media has made it easier to convey threats to reporters with the Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA) reporting 12 incidents registered in 2017. Journalist Natasa Bozic said she was shocked after reporting on a war crime story about hate-filled comments posted online about her.
“I realized that these weren’t typical chauvinist insults but blatant death threats. Some stranger wrote that he wanted me decapitated!” Deutsche Welle reported earlier in a story that also noted public TV HRT journalist Maja Sever being threatened with death online for a story about a Nigerian refugee opening a restaurant in Zagreb.
She said she made a screenshot of the threat and reported it to police, the alleged perpetrator a Croatian living in Belgium upset with multiculturalism. “The public must recognize what kind of pressure we journalists are under just for doing our jobs. I’m encouraging my colleagues to do the same. We should all take a stand against this. That’s our duty!” she said.

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