CJFE voices disapproval of criminal prosecution of Croatian journalist

Monday, July 19, 1999

CJFE voices disapproval of criminal prosecution of Croatian journalist

19 July 1999

His Excellency Franjo Tudjman
President of Croatia
Zagreb, Croatia
Fax: +385 1 456 5208

Your Excellency,

On behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-governmental organisation that promotes freedom of expression worldwide, I would like to impress upon you our strong disapproval of the criminal prosecution of Orlanda Obad, a Croatian journalist with the independent public daily "Jutarnji List".

Orlanda Obad was charged with violating Article 295 of the Croatian Penal Code for revealing alleged business secrets about President Franjo Tudjman's family's financial holdings. The accusations were based on a published article in which she reported that the president's wife had approximately US$150,000 in a bank account at the Zagreb bank in Croatia. This information was excluded from an earlier earnings declaration, despite the new Law on Rights and Obligations of State Employees, passed in September 1998 by the Croatian Parliament.

CJFE would like to remind his excellency that Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which Croatia is a signatory, grants journalists the freedom "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers". Attempts by government to prosecute journalists simply for practising their profession is arbitrary and unjust. In imparting such information, not only was Orlanda Obad acting on behalf of the public interest, but she was also acting well within the boundaries of the law.

Although the article may have caused embarrassment to the president's family, that is not logically sufficient to warrant criminal prosecution.

I urge your excellency to take a leadership role in ensuring that Croatian officials cease the unjust harassment of Obad and any other individuals who continue to be prosecuted under Article 295.

Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Yours truly,

Wayne Sharpe
Executive Director