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Croatian journalists protest against 'anti-leaks' bill

By AFP

January 31, 2024 07:25 PM


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Hundreds of journalists protested in the Croatian capital of Zagreb on Wednesday against proposed legislation that media workers say would ban reporting details of criminal investigations.

Media workers have been up in arms about the bill for weeks, saying the law is an attempt to silence their sources.

Parliament has been reviewing the legislation since early January, which recommends jailing individuals for up to three years for disclosing information about an "investigative or evidentiary action".

"It is an act of state aggression against public interest," Hrvoje Zovko, who heads the Croatian journalists' association (HND), told the protesters.

Demonstrators waved signs including a placard that read "No sources, no political problems" during the rally in central Zagreb.

Dozens of journalists also protested in Croatia's second-largest city of Split.

The government insists that the new regulations do not mention journalists but focuses instead on judicial officials, police, lawyers and witnesses.

But journalists say the bill would silence their sources and reduce information provided by whistleblowers, making reporting on corruption and public affairs issues increasingly difficult.

The government has rejected such accusations.

Conservative Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic argued that the legislation "addresses the problem of the leaking of information in the non-public phase of criminal proceedings".

On the eve of the protest, authorities announced an amendment to the rule, saying that an individual publishing information in "predominantly the public's interest" would not be targeted.

Zovko dismissed the measure as a "cheap political trick", while prominent investigative reporter Drago Hedl said the new law would be an "apocalypse for free journalism".

The European Union country is scheduled to hold parliamentary and presidential elections this year. The HND has warned that journalists face increased pressure ahead of the vote.


AFP


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