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News 30 Jan 17

Croatia Media Await Funding Ruling With Concern

Non-profit media await a final decision on their appeals for funds from Croatia's new culture minister - but some fear she will continue the controversial policies of her predecessor.

Sven Milekic
Nina Obuljen Korzinek. Photo: Beta/Hina.

Croatian non-profit media await a final decision from the country's culture ministry on the annual grants given for the electronic media, as well as hard copy magazines.

After many non-profit media on the left were left out of the financing scheme of the new Culture Minister, Nina Obuljen Korzinek, in December, many submitted complaints.

The media behind these complaints will receive a final decision, accompanied by a written explanation, in late January or early February.

Ana Kuzmanic, editor-in-chief of the non-profit media outlet H-alter, told BIRN that although the minister had talked about analysing the model of financing the media and about including all interested parties, she was not optimistic about the outcome. 

“Hints that non-profit media won’t be financed by the culture ministry were obvious during the passage of the state budget, when the rubric on non-profit media remained empty, not only for 2017 but also for 2018,” she said.

Some non-profit media “won’t survive without state help”, she noted, while Korzinek had merely called on cash-strapped media to apply for EU funds.

“Those funds are very hard to get for smaller non-profit media,” Kuzmanic concluded.

The decision will come from the ministry’s council for books, publishing and bookselling activities – made up of independent experts in the field – although the minister has the discretionary right to alter the decision.

Media representatives fear the new Culture Minister in the centre-right government voted into office in October will continue the practice of the controversial former Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic.

He slashed the money for non-profit and leftist media and abolished the council's responsibility for funding decisions on the media, an act criticised by media representatives in both Croatia and abroad.

The decision on financing the media in 2017 created even more shock when it included the Croatian version of the respected Le Monde Diplomatique.

At the same time, some right-wing media outlets, such as Vijenac [Wreath] and Hrvatsko slovo [Croatian Letter], received similar bigger amounts as they did in the last years.

While Le Monde started a petition for financing, Korzinek told the daily newspaper Novi list on December 30 that analysis of Le Monde’s writing showed that its “share of cultural content is negligible”, and that it “doesn’t meet the criteria of the program from which it was, so far, co-financed”.

Some pointed to the fact that Le Monde had received money without a problem from the ministry from 2013 to 2016 and had made no changes in its writing or in its tender seeking funds since then.

Ana Kuzmanic said that she feared the new minister was “continuing the policies of the last government, in this case, of Hasanbegovic himself.

Sasa Lekovic, president of the Croatian Journalists' Association, HND, told BIRN that while the new minister had made changes in terms of communications, as they are “now able to meet and normally discuss [things] with the minister”, no changes in media policy were evident as yet.

"Things that weren’t functioning in the culture ministry under the last minister are still not functioning," Lekovic said.

"But I can understand this, as maybe the ministry still isn’t formed properly in that sector,” he added, urging the careful use of criteria for financing non-profit media “to prevent manipulation”.

Viktor Ivancic, founder of Feral Tribune, an influential left-wing newspaper in the former Yugoslavia, slated the new minister in an interview for BIRN in December, saying she would not do anything good for the media.

“She will probably follow Hasanbegovic’s policy [of axing funds for the media], under the guise of some soft variant of nationalism and quasi-liberal rhetoric," he said.

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