Although the Ministry of Justice and Administration claims that the goal of the proposal is to protect the presumption of innocence and the right to privacy of the accused and other participants in legal proceedings, it is difficult to ignore that this change is occurring in a very sensitive political moment, just before the big elections of 2024. Such a context raises suspicions that the government is using this legal solution to suppress inconvenient leaks of information that are in the public interest.
While journalists are explicitly exempted from potential criminal liability under this law, it is evident that their ability to report on criminal proceedings and the prosecution of politically exposed individuals will be hindered or, at the very least, made more challenging. Journalists may be pressured to reveal their sources, and it is a legitimate concern whether all communications of our colleagues will be scrutinized to determine who has violated the law and leaked investigation-related information.
We would like to remind once again that the initiative to introduce this new criminal offense came from the political leadership earlier this year, following the release of transcripts of conversations in the case of Josipa Rimac, in which high-ranking officials of the ruling party were mentioned. At that time, Prime Minister Andrej Plenković announced that leaking information would become a criminal offense.
"Situations where someone uncontrollably, intentionally, politically, selectively, or manipulatively leaks information from case files and causes political problems will not happen because it will be a criminal offense," stated Plenković, the most powerful political figure in the country at the time.
Citizens of Croatia should be aware that the implementation of this law will seriously curtail media coverage of important scandals and ultimately deprive them of information of public interest. Such a legal solution would represent another form of exhausting and intimidating journalists and the media, similar to SLAPP, with the aim of restricting freedom of reporting and the public's right to be informed about the actions of the government.
For the Executive Board of HND,
Hrvoje Zovko, President of HND
Maja Sever, President of SNH