Croatia: Dora Kršul and Telegram.hr accused by the Minister of Culture and Media of publishing “malicious fake news”
The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) expresses its anger at the unacceptable comments made towards awarded journalist Dora Kršul and the media outlet Telegram.hr by the Minister of Culture and Media of Croatia. We demand an immediate apologies and a retraction.
“Malicious fake news”: those were the words used by Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek in interviews, to talk about articles published by Telegram.hr and written by Dora Kršul. Discredit, an overused technique, is particularly worrying for the state of press freedom in a country when it comes from the Minister responsible for the media.
The journalist, on 15 January, published a follow-up article of an investigative piece that first went out in May 2023: her investigation into the alleged misuse of EU funds by the Minister, more specifically into the irregularities at the Faculty of Geodesy at the University of Zagreb. Part of the journalist’s investigation was about a project of 3D scanning of cultural buildings. The project, which total sum amounted to HRK 19,1 million (€ 2.500.000), was awarded to the Faculty by the Minister of Culture and Media without a public tender.
The articles, which were published on Telegram.hr and picked up by other media outlets, led to an investigation by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office. A total of 29 people were arrested in November 2023 for wrongdoing and misuse of money.
January was not the first time Korzinek publicly and verbally attacked Dora Kršul. As Prime Minister Andrej Plenković, she did not comment on the alleged misuse of EU funds but tried to undermine the journalist’s work. Kršul remarked on the fact that the government did not answer with neither arguments nor proofs.
“The continuation of the attack by the Minister of Culture and Media, Nina Koržinek, on the journalist Dora Kršul, after the publication of investigative texts on the Telegram.hr portal about the spending of public funds in reconstruction after the earthquake, is a persistent attempt to silence investigative journalism in Croatia. Representatives of the executive power, and especially those who need to strengthen the framework for the free work of journalists, must not respond to journalistic inquiries or publications with discrediting and accusations of malicious fake news. In a democratic country, politicians must answer questions of public interest, especially how they spend public money,” commented Maja Sever, President of the European Federation of Journalists.
“The space of press freedom in Croatia is getting significantly smaller,” said Kršul. Journalists critical of the government see their work notably hindered. One example: at the time of writing, the Croatian Parliament is discussing criminal code provisions that would criminalise unauthorised leaking of documents from criminal proceedings.
This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.