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Željko Peratović

Željko Peratović

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    The biggest scandal in the Croatian media scene in 2004 took place in October and November, when freelance journalist Helena Puljiz was pressured by the Counter Intelligence Agency (POA). On 5 October, Puljiz was taken by POA employees to an interview. The talk soon turned into an attempt to bribe and blackmail the journalist. Puljiz said she was treated as a potential national security enemy and was asked to co-operate with the POA, and also to deliver information about her colleagues.

    The POA threatened Puljiz that if she refused, it would make public compromising details about her private life. She was interrogated for five hours. This case was then reported to the Croatian Council for Civil Supervision of Intelligence Agencies, but its investigation did not provide any answers to the most relevant questions, including how the POA got information on Puljiz’s private life, what the main goal of the interview was and why she was blackmailed. There were even discussions about whether to give Puljiz a lie-detector test.

    On 25 November, Croatian President Stjepan Mesic signed a document cancelling the contract of Joško Podbevšek as director of POA. Prime Minister Ivo Sanader refused to co-sign the settlement, which caused a worsening of relations between the two. By the end of November, according to official information, the POA had questioned some 40 people, who might be in some way connected to President Mesic.

    On 1 December, the Parliamentary Council for Human Rights and the Rights of National Minorities unanimously concluded that the POA had done damage to Puljiz’s rights, according to the constitution and the law. The president of the Council for Civil Supervision of Intelligence Agencies, Vlatko Cvrtila, agreed there were enough reasons to cancel Podbevšeks’s contract and resigned his position at the beginning of December, because the council did not want to further investigate the case.

    SEEMO reacted to this situation on 29 November with a press release in which it asked the Croatian government and parliament to urgently investigate pressure used by the POA against the journalist, and ensure that all details are made public, while respecting the private sphere of Puljiz. It also asked for the prevention of such incidences from happening in the future. On 17 December, President Stjepan Mesic and Prime Minister Ivo Sanader agreed to replace Podbevšek, thus ending the “Puljiz affair.” Tomislav Karamarko became the new director of the POA.

    2004 World Press Freedom Review (Croatia)By the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)



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