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Croatian Journalists Rally Against Censorship

Sanja Mikleusevic Pavic (left), president of the management board of Croatian Radio and Television (HRT) and Hrvoje Zovko, president of Croatian Journalism Society (HND) in Zagreb.

Several hundred Croatian journalists have rallied in the capital, Zagreb, against what they call the curbing of press freedoms and pressure on journalists.

The rally on March 2 was organized by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) in protest over more than 1,100 lawsuits filed against journalists and media outlets in the country.

The protesters marched through downtown Zagreb blowing whistles and playing drums.

"Enough of persecution of has gone on for decades," Hrvoje Zovko, the leader of the HND, told the rally.

Zovko accused the government of "behaving ignorantly...and destroying journalism.”

"We live in a country where one can be condemned for publishing true information," he said.

The lawsuits have mainly been filed by politicians and other public figures, with most of them claiming compensation for nonmaterial damages such as "mental anguish" or "tarnished reputation.”

The issue came into focus after Croatia's public broadcaster, HRT, filed more than 30 lawsuits against its own and other journalists, including Zovko, who complained of censorship.

In January, both the International and European Federations of Journalists called on HRT management to drop the lawsuits.

Critics say the HRT, which is mainly financed through a monthly license fee paid by users, serves the ruling parties' interests rather than operating as a genuine public service.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP