Guideposts to free and accountable media

Car, V. (2012). Guideposts to free and accountable media. Zagreb: Human Rights House Zagreb and University of Zagreb, Faculty of Political Science.

Abstract: Summary Guideposts to Free and Accountable Media The book, Guideposts to Free and Accountable Media, came to exist as the result of a one-year project of the same name, financed by the National Foundation for Civil Society Development within a programme aiming to encourage collaboration in carrying out research about the positioning and development of civil society in the Republic of Croatia in 2012. The project was realised in partnership between the Human Rights House Zagreb and the Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb. One of the aims of the research was to critically analyse the way public service media, as well as independent non-profit media and audio-visual production, report about human rights. It has also been an aim to analyse the legal and institutional framework within which public service media and independent non-profit media companies function, and provide advice for improvement. The research therefore also focused on shaping recommendations for the inclusion of themes dealing with human rights, that would be wider in scope, more visible and of higher quality, into the content that these media or productions already publicise or create. The research team consists of six authors (Antina Bratić, Viktorija Car, Arijana Kladar, Lucija Kuharić, Milana Romić and Sanja Sarnavka) coming from different academic and professional backgrounds giving the research an interdisciplinary and varied approach. Apart from the analysis of the legal framework of the non-profit and public service media, through qualitative analysis we looked at the ways in which, directly or indirectly, the value of human rights is promoted or undermined in the content of the selected weekly/fortnightly publications, non-profit internet portals and newscasts Dnevnik and Dnevnik 3 on HTV (Croatian Television). Part of the Fade In documentary film production was also analysed. For the purpose of the project, a programme of these documentary films was screened at the Faculty of Political Science, Fade In at the FPZG, while a selected focus group of students critically interpreted and evaluated the viewed content. A different group of citizens, selected by the members of the organizations of civil society network, was responsible for keeping a diary of watching certain programmes on HTV. The book, Guideposts to Free and Accountable Media, contains some of the results of the aforementioned research. The articles published here will be used for the further development of the strategy of activities through which to encourage a change in the existing situation by raising the quality of media content that directly or indirectly speaks about human rights. The conclusions are presented in the short introduction by Sanja Sarnavka opening the book and presenting the articles. Viktorija Car in her article Public Service Media and Non-Profit Media as Social Capital goes a step further from defining public service media as public good, and defines public service media and non-profit media as social capital, following the definition by sociologists Pierre Bourdieu and James S. Coleman (in Croatia: Berto Šalaj in Social Capital). Lucija Kuharić looks at media law with special focus on media's responsibility to cover content on human rights, and deals with the theme of the financing system for non-profit media. In her article, Kuharić analyses three different Croatian laws concerning media: Media Act, Electronic Media Act and Croatian Radio-television Act. She also describes two models of financing non-profit media (H-alter and Novosti) in Croatia and draws on a Dutch model of regulation and financial support to non-profit media as an example of a good practice in Europe. Instead of usual conclusions, at the end of the article we are presented with a list of clearly stated recommendations for improving the ways human rights are promoted in media and a strategy for a more systematic financing of non-profit media in Croatia. Sanja Sarnavka in her article, Evening News Programmes on HTV (Croatian Television) and Human Rights, is interested in the extent to which, and ways in which, major newscasts Dnevnik and Dnevnik 3 on HTV inform perceptions about human rights, be it directly or indirectly. She analysed the two newscasts over the period of May, June and July 2012, while the news content is looked at through the prism of three generations of human rights: rights for freedom, rights for equality and rights for solidarity. The author concludes that information and content dealing with human rights get attention on both news programmes, but the ways in which human rights are presented are not satisfactory. This qualitative research is supplemented by a short account by Milana Romić of the analysis of diary entries concerning certain programmes watched on HTV. In order to answer the title question of How citizens evaluate the content dealing with human rights in programmes on HTV, 20 respondents were engaged to keep a diary of programmes watched during the first three months of the year 2012. Six programmes that are thought to usually have a considerable amount of content on human rights were selected for analysis: Duhovni izazovi, Mir i dobro, Briljanteen, Dobro jutro, Hrvatska, Peti dan and Hrvatska uživo. Based on the analysis of the diaries, it was discovered that human rights were covered relatively well in the content of the programmes in question, but implicit mentioning of such content prevailed, which made it difficult for people not thoroughly familiar with the issue of human rights to follow and absorb the content on it. It is also an important issue of which themes on human rights get coverage and which are ignored. It was evident from the analysis of the diaries, that the content dealing with human rights on HTV is often presented superficially, from one side only, and without looking deeper and more critically into the reasons for breaches of human rights. It has been noticed that very important and problematic cases of breaches of economic and social rights have only been touched upon in a few programmes. Viktorija Car and Antina Bratić have written an article dealing with socially engaged documentary film, with a special emphasis on the Fade In documentaries and reports - Fade In stands for Fantastično dobra institucija (Fantastically Good Institution). The first part of the article looks at the history of the development of the documentary genre, with special attention to socially engaged documentary. The second part consists of the analysis of the Fade In production, with added accounts by the participants of focus groups - students who went to viewings of selected Fade In documentaries at the Faculty of Political Science. This article, through its theoretical part, as well as students' comments about the viewed documentaries, states that there are independent productions in Croatia that professionally deal with content of public interest, undoubtedly including human rights. The co-authors emphasise that the major problem that such productions face is the absence of a stable financing system for audio-visual content of public interest in Croatia. It is also the insufficient spread and accessibility of such content, partly due to the lack of interest on the side of HRT (Croatian Radio-Television) as a major public service media, to air high quality content produced by the independent producers, that stand in their way. Arijana Kladar in her article, Coverage of Content on Human Rights by Non-profit Media in Croatia, is interested in the ways in which non-profit internet portals in Croatia organise themselves and how, and to what extent, such media cover content on human rights, and what the quality of such coverage is. 143 journalistic pieces published by eight non-profit media (Radio Student and internet portals, Civilnodruš,,,, and were analysed for the project. The research took place between 10th July 2012 and 15th August 2012. The article offers a precise overview of the non-profit media companies in question, looking at a wide scope of aspects, from their visual identity to coverage of content on human rights, and provides extracts from the interviews with the chief editors. The author concludes that out of the eight analysed non-profit media, four are specialising in human rights issues, while three cover content on human rights in their columns and programmes. Due to the non-existence of stable and appropriate financing sources, the quality of the content is often a direct outcome of personal efforts of journalists and editors. A short supplementing article by Sanja Sarnavka looking at Cenzura Plus, an association for the promotion of human rights and freedom of media, and the programmes produced by this association, carries a much more critical tone. The author looks back at the period starting from 1996 when Cenzura programmes that encouraged democratisation and the facing of the past in Croatia were first aired. Today, the main drawback of the Cenzura Plus programmes is stylistically and thematically uneven content. This is evident through the fact that numerous features of each programme are not visibly connected, making it harder to follow the idea of the programme. Uneven production quality of features and programmes is another limitation. While the extraordinary value of the content covered by the programmes is acknowledged, the programmes are recognised to clearly be wanting in finding an authentic media voice that would make the production recognizable and unique. In her article, Non-profit Print Media in Croatia - Stakeholders in a Process of Protection and Development of Human Rights and Democracy, and Freedom of Expression, Milana Romić analyses the way the periodicals Novosti, Vijenac and Zarez cover human rights over the period between 1st January 2012 and 31st March 2012. Emphasising the importance of non-profit media for the development of the quality of democracy and promotion of the rule of law, the author of this article concludes that the coverage of content on human rights in the periodicals in question depends less on their agenda, but more on the extent of the critical orientation of the particular media. Considering that, the analysis has shown that Novosti offers the largest amount of content on human rights, followed by Zarez, while Vijenac offers the least amount. Also, as was supported by the results of the analysis of HTV's informative content, the themes interested in the first-generation human rights are prevailing, followed by the themes on the second generation human rights, while the third-generation human rights received the least coverage in all three analysed print media. Closing the book is a short story, Dual, by Nives Rogoznica who uses science fiction as a tool to portray the Croatian reality of breaking the human rights of citizens who are considered “different”. This short story, through the humorous and satirical literary form, talks about the same themes as the analytical articles in the book, and comes to the same conclusion – human rights in Croatia are approached in a limited way, often giving priority to formal, superficial and bureaucratic interpretations that fail to grasp the essence of the problems faced by individuals or minorities in society.