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Authorities must investigate possible attack on president of Croatian Journalists' Association

Saša Leković, president of the Croatian Journalists' Association
Saša Leković, president of the Croatian Journalists' Association

SEENPM

This statement was originally published on seenpm.org on 31 October 2016.

The South East European Network for Profession­alization of Media (SEENPM) urges the authorities of the Republic of Croatia to investigate with the utmost diligence an incident in which the car belonging to Saša Leković, president of Croatian Journalists' Association (HND), appeared to have been tampered with in what was possibly an attempt on Mr Leković's life.

The news of the incident came out early on 28 October in a Facebook post by Mr Leković in which he described how the previous evening the car suddenly became unstable while he drove on the motorway. He promptly stopped the car preventing a potentially serious accident. A local mechanic subsequently opined that two screws on the front right wheel of the car had been half-sawed.

Ever since he became HND president in 2015, Mr Leković has received numerous threats, including death threats. He has also been the target of hate speech campaigns both online and offline. This pressure against Mr Leković is part of a much wider pattern in Croatia in recent years, with many independent journalists facing verbal abuse (including from government officials), threats, insults and physical violence. While many such incidents have been reported to police, few were investigated, while those that did trigger investigations didn't lead to successful prosecutions. Government ministers and members of parliament have largely remained silent, despite frequent warnings in recent years from Croatian and international human rights watchdogs and intergovernmental organisations over the deteriorating conditions for journalists and freedom of expression in general in the country.

Government authorities play a critical role in ensuring conditions for unimpeded exercise of freedom of expression in society and creating a safe environment for journalists to carry out their work. When violations of freedom of expression occur authorities should at the very least condemn and investigate them. By remaining silent over freedom of expression and other human rights violations successive Croatian governments have failed to send a signal to the public that acts of intimidation and violence against journalists are unacceptable and illegal.

SEENPM, a network of 18 media development organisations from twelve countries of Central and South East Europe, calls on the newly formed government of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković to conduct a robust and transparent investigation of the alleged tampering with the car of the president of the Croatian Journalists' Association. We also call on the government to urgently start adopting policies and specific measures to protect and promote freedom of expression in Croatia, policies aimed at ensuring an enabling environment for independent and critical voices in particular. A failure to do so would signal Croatian authorities' continued indifference toward freedom of expression and other human rights violations in the country.

Albanian Media Institute (Tirana)

Center for Independent Journalism (Bucharest, Romania)

Center for Independent Journalism (Budapest, Hungary)

Independent Journalism Center (Chisinau, Moldova)

Investigative Journalism Center (Zagreb, Croatia)

IPS Communication Foundation / Bianet.org (Istanbul, Turkey)

Kosovo Media Institute (Pristina)

Macedonian Institute for Media (Skopje)

Media and Reform Center Niš (Niš, Serbia)

Media Center Caglavica (Pristina, Kosovo*)

Media Center (Belgrade, Serbia)

Media Development Center (Sofia, Bulgaria)

Media Plan Institute (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Mediacentar Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Montenegro Media Institute (Podgorica)

Novi Sad School of Journalism (Novi Sad, Serbia)

Peace Institute (Ljubljana, Slovenia)

Platform for Independent Journalism P24 (Istanbul, Turkey)

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