Menue_phone
06.10.2017

Croatia pressure on science writers

By Jessica Jacques

Journalists criticising Croatian science and higher education institutions, namely declining performance at most of them, are facing abuse and being accused of ’destroying the national order’.

Mićo Tatalović Mićo Tatalović, a native Croatian, who chairs the Association of British Science Writers

Journalists criticising Croatian science and higher education institutions, namely declining performance at most of them, are facing abuse and being accused of ’destroying the national order’.

Mićo Tatalović contacted the ECPMF to report on these worrying developments. A native Croatian, he chairs the Association of British Science Writers, and sits on the board of the Balkan Network of Science Writers. This year he is a Knight Science Journalism Fellow at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He covered the allegations that the (now former) science minister Pavo Barišić copied another scholar’s work. The allegations were confirmed by the highest research ethics body in the country, appointed by the parliament.

Ante Covic, a vice-rector at the University of Zagreb - which has been severely criticised for its failure to reform and perform well, - wrote two articles (April 2017, page 11; and July 2017, page 11) in the Universitas newspaper which is inserted as part of the two main national newspapers.

For Mićo Tatalović, the articles read “like a witch hunt” and he feared that the journalists who were named and shamed in the article could become a target for right-wing nationalists.. In the article Covic named and shamed journalists and academics and said it was only the start of “a demanding research and practical challenge”. For Tatalović this was “chilling” news.

"Uncivilized"?

The second article accused award-winning journalist Tanja Rudez, a reporter for Jutarnji List daily national newspaper and European Science Writer of the Year 2015, of being a “unprofessional and uncivilised”. Her journalism is apparently “deadly for democratic order.”

Another science journalist, Nenad Jarić Dauenhauer, a reporter for the daily tabloid website index.hr, is accused of hosting a “media-operative headquarters“.

He notes that in Croatia, those who wrote about the American Association for Advancement of Science’s ‘March for Science’ were seen as being destructive to society.

Tatalović takes the criticism of the Croatian science and academic writers seriously: “It’s not inconceivable that they could be interpreted as a call to action against the individual journalists mentioned in it.“

He sees power and academia as becoming “intertwined“ in Croatia, with law and economic faculties directly linked with the political parties and institutions of power. This has left the journalists in fear of reprisals for their work.

Tanja Rudez notes that this isn’t the first time that Croatian journalists have been stigmatised, harassed or attacked. She tells ECPMF that in recent years she has become a persona non grata among leading professionals at the University of Zagreb because she wrote some critical articles about the rector Damir Boras and vice-rector Ante Covic.

This work is relevant

She says she was “really upset” yet refuses to give up as she knows her work is relevant and important.

When asked for comment, Damir Boras Ante Covic did not respond.

At the moment Rudez and her colleagues are in the process of establishing a sector of science journalists as part of the Croatian Journalists’ Association because they see it as important for protecting their own integrity and the integrity of their profession.

Saša Leković, president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND) has substantiated the reports. He himself, was physically attacked and seriously injured in October 2016. By this point the Human Rights House Zagreb had recorded a total of 75 cases of physical and verbal attacks on journalists in the previous 19 months. ECPMF visited Croatia in June 2016 with a high powered team of international fact finders and received assurances from President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović that press freedom, in particular combatting hate speech, is a priority for this young EU member state.

 





Get in Contact

fact finding mission analysis