Croatian Award for Praljak Trial Journalist Sparks Controversy

4. May 2018.16:53
Two journalists are giving back awards to the Croatian Journalists’ Association in protest after it honoured a reporter who they accuse of favouring war criminal Slobodan Praljak, who committed suicide in court.

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The Croatian Journalists’ Association, HND was criticised by several journalists and rights activists on Friday for presenting an award to Nova TV reporter Ivana Petrovic, who they accused of biased coverage of the sentencing and public suicide of Bosnian Croat military chief Slobodan Praljak.

A journalist from Croatian daily newspaper Novi List, Boris Pavelic, said that he will return his own ‘Marija Juric Zagorka’ award, which the HND presents annually on May 3, World Press Freedom Day.

“I am returning the award that I won 16 years ago because I think that journalists have to care about the standards of journalism, not just about winning some awards,” Pavelic told BIRN.

He said that Petrovic did not interview any of the war victims who were present at Praljak’s trial and that she criticised the verdict without making any concrete arguments.

“This is not a protest against the HND, I am and will remain a member, but the public must start asking questions about what is and what isn’t journalism,” Pavelic said.

He called on other previous winners of the ‘Marija Juric Zagorka’ award to follow his example.

So far, he has been joined by journalist Vojislav Mazzocco, who won the 2009 investigative journalism prize.

“A gold medal in cooking brudet [seafood stew] is worth more today [than the award],” Mazzocco wrote on Facebook.

In November 2017, the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia convicted six former Bosnian Croat officials for wartime crimes against Bosniaks, after which the former chief of the Main Headquarters of the Croatian Defence Council, Slobodan Praljak, took poison in the courtroom.

While covering the incident, Ivana Petrovic asked on air: “Who will guard our narrow border from Split to Prevlaka? According to this verdict, probably the Mujahideen returning from Syria.”

The HND’s explanation for giving Petrovic the award stated that her reporting on the day was “analytical and flawless”.

But the Zagreb-based NGO Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past claimed that her reporting was biased towards the defendants.

“Journalistic reports that deny the arguments of the prosecution and the statements of victims and experts, while acknowledging only the arguments for the defence, are professionally flawed,” Documenta said in a press release.

BIRN asked Petrovic for a comment, but she said she needed permission from her employers. She referred BIRN to Nova TV’s PR division, which then declined to comment.

    Erna Mačkić

    This post is also available in: Bosnian