Media Situation in Croatia

From socialist times to the current democracy, Croatian media have undergone a transition through a series of reforms. The dissolution of Yugoslavia and the autonomy in Croatia have opened up the door to the worldwide and European trend of market liberalization. There has been a lack of transparency of media ownership and privatization, due to which the main objective of journalism transformed into primarily gaining profit, whereas the quality of the media content became of secondary importance. Under such circumstances tabloidization finds its way into the media, which conforms to the audience but also attracts advertisers as a source of profit. "Most of the mainstream media, apart from the public service HRT and HINA (Croatian Information News Agency) are owned by foreign companies – for example, more than 90 percent of newspaper titles are owned by international corporations like WAZ (Germany) and Styria (Austria)" (Car, Bukvić, 2014: 15). Kanižaj and Skoko (2010: 21) stated that since the independence process in 1990 until today, the Croatian media have gone through trends which are, to a greater or lesser extent, still present nowadays "commercialization, sensationalism, publishing lies and manipulation of facts, failure to follow professional standards, violation of ethical norms and loss of credibility." Journalists usually report in a trivial, unilateral and sensationalist manner to attract readers and advertisers. Information that is served in the media is mostly not proofed, the sources are anonymous and the attention of readers is gained through scandalous topics and headlines. "The first five pages of the mostread daily newspapers 24 sata, contain the greatest number of texts that do not state the source of information mentioned in the article. Furthermore, they also contain the lowest number of quotes, and the highest number of sensationalist headlines and texts without an author" (Kanižaj in Malović, 2007: 114). The global economic crisis that is leaving the citizens impoverished has also had a great impact on print media for their circulations are declining every year.

According to the report of Reporters Without Borders in the domain of press freedom, Croatia takes its place as the 65th country out of 180. The public service, which should serve as a public good for all citizens, is usually creating its own contents depending on the prevailing political structure that has a great impact on public media, due to which their freedom is seriously narrowed. During the reign of the conservative party (after the war) human rights and the freedom of press was seriously threatened, while corruption was widely present. Journalists have found themselves in an unfavorable position due to the fact that they were not allowed to report on corrupt practices that were going on, but instead had to censor them. According to the report Corruption Perception Index 2013 of Transparency International, Croatia holds the place number 57 out of 177 countries in terms of corruption rates. The situation has changed since 2000 when the Liberals came to power and created a better image of the media than it was before. In the last couple of years the situation has changed even more. The media have publicly revealed and reported on numerous scandals and corruptive acts of a number of Croatian state officials, which is a great progress towards full media freedom. Nonetheless, the Croatian media are still very much corrupted, censored, the ownership of media is nontransparent and the journalists work in very poor conditions.

Car and Bukvić (2014: 18) stress another problem according to the Croatian Employment Service (Hrvatski zavod za zapošljavanje, HZZ), in 2013 more than 750 journalists have been unemployed and the number is still growing. It is necessary to implement reforms and to adjust the education systems to the market needs.

In 24 years of media transition numerous laws and legal acts on media have been passed. They also served as a start for further regulations. Challenges which Croatia has to face nowadays, as a member of the EU as of 1st of July 2013, is the liberation of the media from political impact, a greater transparency of ownership, abolishing censorship, better ethics and content quality and self regulation of journalism which will enable the creation of better working conditions for every journalist.

Marin Bukvić, University of Zagreb