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Croatia: Media Watchdog Warns Legal Reform Deals Blow To Press Freedom

Zagreb, 18 July 2003 (RFE/RL) -- The Paris-based media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders today said recent amendments to Croatia's Penal Code and a draft press law represented a blow to press freedom in the country. Under the amended Penal Code, approved last week, a journalist charged with libel will have to prove that the information published was either true, or that he or she had a reason to believe that it was.

Libel could be punished with up to a one-year prison term.

According to the draft press law, the authorities will be allowed to refuse to provide information to the press without giving any explanation. It also seeks a ban on publishing "official, professional, and business secrets."

The Croatian Journalists' Association earlier this week denounced the legal reform affecting media.