The EHF strongly condemns a recent attack on Zeljko Peratovic, journalist and vice president of our member organisation the Center for Civil Courage. He was severely beaten, suffocated and hit in the head which left an open wound on his forehead. After he was taken to the hospital, the perpetrators returned and smashed his car and looted his house. Perpetrators were apprehended only after Zeljko found out their identity and informed the police.
This attack seems to be related to the work of Zeljko Peratovic and not to have personal motives. Peratovic is a well-known investigative journalist. He started his career as a professional journalist in June 1991 for the Croatian daily newspaper Vjesnik before becoming an influential freelance journalist and correspondent for Reporters without Borders. He was last year’s winner of the Croatian Journalists Association award for investigative journalism. He is vice-president of the humanist organisation “Center for Civil Courage”. He had already been subject to death threats which the police didn’t take seriously.
The Croatian Association of Journalists has reported an increase in attacks on journalists in the past months. While the situation of press freedom has improved in the last years, the country is still only ranked 58 on the world press freedom index 2015.
Freedom of the press is a fundamental right in the European Union. As it is stated by the European Commission, “freedom of expression can only be exercised in a free and pluralistic media environment, including through independent media governance”. Article 11 (2) of the Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees freedom of the press: “2. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.”
The EHF associates with the call by the Croatian Journalists’ Association to amend the Criminal Code of the Republic of Croatia in order to enable police to investigate and persecute attacks on journalists and threats relating to their work in the same manner as attacks on government officials. Today journalists have no special protection and the nature of their work regularly exposes them to threats and even attacks such as one on Zeljko Peratovic. Qualification of such offenses as more serious criminal acts and imposing of more severe sanctions against perpetrators would offer additional protection to journalists and enable them to work more freely and without the constant fear of being harmed for their work.