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Croatia: parties gain influence over journalists

Although Croatia became independent in 1991 its media continue to be marked by the war surrounding the break-up of Yugoslavia and the transition from a socialist to a democratic society. Even after the privatisation of the media in the 1990s, most of the major print media and the public radio station HRT remained subject to the influence, manipulation and control of state institutions.

HRT TV Studio.
(Flickr, JasonParis, Lizenz: CC BY 2.0)

As the country stabilised politically and moved towards democracy at the beginning of 2000, increasing numbers of media organisations were bought by foreign media concerns which today dominate the Croatian media market. RTL and Nova TV (CME Group) together with HRT share the national television market. The biggest-circulation dailies are now published by Europapress Holding EPH (Jutarnji List, Slobodna Dalmacija, Globus) and by the Austrian Styria Media Group AG (24 Sata, Večernji List).

The EPH experienced a particularly turbulent year in 2014. The German Funke-Gruppe (formerly Waz) and media magnate Ninoslav Pavić, who used to own half each of the concern, lost their shares to the debtor bank Hypo Alpe Adria and today own only 5 percent each. Ninety percent of the shares were acquired by the lawyer Marjan Hanžeković. Experts fear that he will abandon the publisher's liberal course and push it further to the right, which would make Croatia's already rather monolithic media market even more colourless.

The concentration of the media in a few hands in such a small country has brought the media and the state apparatus as well as the main parties HDZ and SDP dangerously close together, constituting a threat to press freedom. Time and again journalists have reported the interference of media concerns and state and party functionaries in their work. The situation of journalists became even worse when the financial crisis broke out in 2008. Austerity measures caused newspapers to be closed, editorial boards to be merged and salaries cut. More than 2000 journalists have lost their jobs over the past five years.

The online market is likewise dominated by the big media companies, who try to use the online sector to compensate for their losses in the print business. The private television broadcasters generally offer information for free on their Internet portals, but are increasingly introducing paywalls for online access to their television programmes. The newspaper publishers have followed a similar business model, whereby their print editions are available only as paid subscriptions online. Driven by economic hardship and journalistic commitment, more and more renowned journalists are using the Internet to establish themselves with independent portals such as or as alternatives to mainstream media.

Press Freedom Index (2014):

Reporters without Borders: 58th place (2015)
Freedom House: 83rd place (2014)

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