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News 13 Jul 17

Whistleblowing Board Supervising Croatian TV Faces Axe

After the supervisory board of Croatian Radio-Television warned of possible criminal activities in the public broadcaster, ruling party MPs on the parliamentary committee have demanded its removal.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Illustration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Wing1990hk

The Croatian parliament's committee on information, computerisation and the media on Thursday called for the removal of the supervisory board of the public broadcaster Croatian Radio Television, HRT, after the board last week again warned of possible corruption inside the broadcaster.

With seven votes "for" and four "against", MPs of the ruling Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ and their junior coalition partners voted to axe the board before its term ends. Parliament will have to confirm the decision by the majority of all 151 MPs.

The supervisory board published a report on its monitoring of the legality of HRT’s activities in 2016, in which it noted several irregularities.

Citing “cases that may have been the result of possible corrupt actions and illegal activities by individual persons”, the board forwarded reports on HRT’s procurement of audio-visual works from independent producers, on out-of-court settlements and on the effectiveness of its public procurements to the state attorney's office .

The board warned MPs last week that the procurement of audio-visual works from independent producers was “non-transparent”, without any clear criteria for assessing the value of projects.

Contracts with independent producers had been signed even before the public tenders for them had ended, it said.

The board urged the Culture Ministry to undertake administrative controls over HRT.

Before the vote in the committee was taken on Thursday, the president of the committee, former HDZ Culture Minister, Jasen Mesic, said MPs had no desire to protect “any criminal activities” that allegedly took place in HRT.

Mesic said they decided to remove the board following multiple warnings from the commercial and administrative court that the board had not respected the law on HRT.

“The media committee will support all the proceedings of the HRT's supervisory board that tend in the direction of detecting irregularities. We’ll send a memo to the competent bodies to investigate everything, and, if need be, will also propose the establishment of an investigative commission into HRT,” he concluded.

However, the opposition, led by the Social Democratic Party, SDP, claimed the HDZ was seeking an excuse to remove that board because it had warned about “serious crimes and irregularities” inside HRT.

“There are no arguments for removing HRTs supervisory board. It seems that the supervisory board got in someone’s way and they [the governing parties] want to remove it two days before parliament's summer break starts,” SDP MP Bojan Glavasevic said.

“If you remove the supervisory board, who will monitor HRT? We will go on vacation until autumn. And that is the HDZ's intention, to leave the HRT unattended, so their people can do what they want,” Nenad Stazic, another SDP MP, said.

In February, the supervisory board complained that the Culture Ministry and the parliamentary media committee had ignored its calls to examine the procurement of audio-visual works in 2015 and 2016, before sending the documentation to the state revision office in the end.

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