45 out of 173 in the latest worldwide index
Area: 56,542 sq. km.
Head of state: Stjepan Mesic, since 2005 + Prime Minister Ivo Sanader
A wave of bombings against the political and media world during 2008 tarnished the image of Croatia with the European Union at a time when the country was hoping to join without delay. Government reforms came up against resistance from a legal system undermined by political interference and corruption. The steady expansion of the media sector was not however accompanied by genuine pluralism. As in the neighbouring countries of the former Yugoslavia, journalists’ investigations of war crimes and criminal gangs exposed them to a number of pressures.
The murder in a car bombing in October 2008 of journalist Ivo Pukanic, owner and former editor of the weekly Nacional and of marketing director Niko Franjic, sent shock waves through Croatian society. The killing of Pukanic, who had survived a previous attempt in April 2008, could have been linked to his reports into cigarette smuggling or the publication in 2003 of an interview with a former Croatian general, Ante Gotovina, sought for war crimes by the International Criminal Court for the ex-Yugoslavia (ICTY). In an unaccustomed break with the impunity that generally marks investigations into abuses against the press, the interior ministry opened an investigation that led to the identification of the two killers. The ministry on 8 April 2009 also offered rewards of almost 30,000 euros for any information leading to their arrest.
Investigative reporting on war crimes committed during the Serbo-Croatian conflict of 1991-1995 though not taboo is rare and carried out only with great caution. The journalist Zeljko Peratovic who has suffered judicial harassment from interior minister, Tomislav Karamarko, since January 2008 had said in his blog (www.peratovic.blog.hr) that the minister had obstructed the investigation into the murder in a car bombing of Milan Levar, a witness under protection of the ICTY. The minister accuses the journalist of contravening Article 322/1 KZA of the criminal code providing for one year in prison and an open-ended ban on putting out news.