Croatian Parliament Stalls on Transparency: State Advertising in Media Faces Uncertainty Amidst Opposition Push for Oversight
Croatian Parliament Stalls on State Advertising Rules Amidst Opposition Calls. The Media Committee adjourns without consensus on opposition appeals for regulations governing state-sponsored media advertising. The Croatian parliament’s Committee for Information, Informatization, and Media concluded its meeting on December 20, 2023, without reaching a decision on addressing concerns raised by the opposition regarding state advertising practices in the media. Transparency issues surround advertising by state-owned entities and local authorities in the media, making it unclear if such practices are intended to influence the media favourably.
Croatia’s Agency for Electronic Media (AEM) is legally mandated to compile data on media advertising, but only a mere 3 per cent of state-owned companies and government entities comply with data submission.
“The lack of political will to address this issue is evident once again. The Agency for Electronic Media already has the authority to handle this. However, representatives of AEM admitted during the session that they lack the power to compel state-owned entities and local authorities to furnish information on media advertising,” stated Maja Sever, President of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), in comments to BIRN after the session.
“While the session concluded without firm decisions, it is noteworthy that certain issues were publicly acknowledged, despite the evident reluctance for concrete actions. The regulatory landscape governing state advertising and the utilisation of public funds in the media has remained unchanged for years,” added Sever.
The opposition’s proposal included mandating comprehensive reports from all state, public bodies, and public companies on their media-related activities. This would encompass details on advertising services, funds allocated to PR agencies, contracts with PR agencies, and financial sponsorships of public events organised by media houses and PR agencies. The specified reporting period is for 2022 and 2023.
The opposition pressed the government to establish transparent criteria for distributing advertising funds across various media platforms within state entities. However, a three-hour deliberation failed to yield any agreement. The Committee consists of 11 members, with six from the ruling majority and five from the opposition.
Following the session’s dissolution, Nino Raspudic, a representative of the opposition Most (Bridge) party, commented that while no formal conclusion was reached, much could be inferred from the proceedings.
“Their [HDZ’s] proposal is for the AEM to collect this data, but this is already in the law. According to their report, only 3 per cent of users submitted this data. The other 97 per cent don’t do it, and we don’t know about them, just like we don’t know who HEP [the state-owned electricity company] paid for all the advertising,” remarked Raspudic