Organized by the Center for Freedom of Public Expression of the Croatian Journalists Association, a Round Table on Media in the Election Process was held on Friday, warning about the necessity of publishing data on the possible election engagement or affiliation of media owners, PR and public opinion polling agencies, editors and journalists some political options.
President of the Supreme Court and State Election Commission Branko Hrvatin announced that the SEC will start publishing results of these elections only around 22 hours due to more complex voting techniques. This will be the first parliamentary elections in which the voters, along the list, will also be able to choose candidates with the same list they prefer to the other (preferred vote).
Hrvatin believes that electoral silence should survive, and he is convinced that its duration has been optimally established until the closing of the polls. He warned, however, that the media should listen to their listeners and viewers clearly that data from outgoing polls that are being closed at the closing of the polls are not taken as final election results.
Attorney Alavaur Alaburić emphasized that in the electoral campaign it is necessary to declare whether the media owner is a political option. "If such transparency is not ensured, we will not have the media expected in a democratic society," he warned.
He considers that it is important for the media to recognize the situations in which the activities of government members are carried out for the purpose of electoral advertising and that the advertising prices and possible discounts are made publicly available.
Alaburić says journalists are expected not to set their own preferences and the way they will vote, but the head of public relations agency Aleksandra Kolarić believes that journalists and editors, on the contrary, should declare who they support in the electoral campaign.
"It would be good for the company that media owners and editors would declare who they support in the election campaign, except for those in public services. It would be more transparent than what we have and for the next elections we should consider such a solution, "said Kolarić.
She reported that her association had asked her members to make a statement as to whether they were in the election campaign, which she will announce at the beginning of the next week.
Kolarić reminded that the owner of the public opinion polling agency "2X1" Robert Bosak, just after handing over the election lists, showed that the HDZ candidate for the representatives of national minorities pointed out that the controversy did not consider the candidacy itself, but that Bosak's other agencies were public perceived as unprofessional and biased, thus shaking his own commitment and even the fact that he is intending to run on the party list.
Goran Čular, a professor at the Faculty of Political Science and a member of the Ethics Committee monitoring the elections, warned that most citizens have a bad stand on the election campaign as the time in which statements are not actually taken seriously.
"Elections are a serious and complex job, but according to the content of the campaign, most citizens have a negative attitude. Or what is said in the election campaign is irrelevant, or even an electoral campaign is considered a synonym for tricks, criminals and false representations, "confidently said.
He warned that campaign participants allowed unargumented statements, hate speech, and disqualification of the rival, which the media in some way encouraged. He is convinced that this makes it difficult for democratic institutions to function after the elections.
"After the presidential election, we are witnessing that this can greatly burden the function because there are moments when power and opposition have to sit together, especially when it comes to a number of decisions for which consensus is needed. My impression is that this period, in relation to the previous one, was particularly burdensome and that some communication channels were dropped, "Cular warned.
Dragan Zelić from GONG has urged the media to open important topics in the campaign and inform candidates about different functions and programs, or how they intend to solve key issues in the country. "Most of the journalists do that, but on the other hand are candidates that you can not make to make a statement on certain issues, as was the case," Zelic said.
He is convinced that the confrontation between the pre-eminent and other executive powers is important for the public to get to know the people and programs they represent.