20:56 / 23.09.2021.

Author: Katja Miličić

Court gag order on website’s reporting on child welfare agency raises cries of censorship

Gordana Buljan Flander

Gordana Buljan Flander

Foto: Robert Anic / PIXSELL

A city institution’s attempt to stop a journalist’s reporting on its work through legal action has raised an uproar in the press.

A non-profit website, H-alter, has been publishing a series of articles exploring whether the social welfare system is failing in its mission to protect children. In her work, Journalist Jelena Jindra asks whether the system is actually doing more harm than good. One of the institutions she has called out in her writing is the Zagreb City Polyclinic for the Protection of Children and Youth and its chief administrator Gordana Buljan Flander, who went to court to try and stop the website from continuing its reporting. A judge ordered the website to stop without hearing from the journalist or the website's editor.

The story has whipped up a storm of reactions in the media, most of them characterizing the move as an attempt at censorship.

On Thursday, Mayor Tomislav Tomašević fired the entire board of the clinic, which is run by the city.

"Every city institution, whose interests I also have to protect, needs to be accountable to public criticism. It must be able to respond to such criticism with substantiated arguments. If things escalate to the level of slander, then private lawsuits can be filed. However in this case, distraint laws are being used to ban reporting on a particular institution and that is not something we can condone,” Tomašević said.

Tomašević added that this was a warning to all city institutions that handling criticism in this manner was unacceptable.

Gordana Buljan Flander claims the reporting was unfairly critical, biased, and factually inaccurate. She told HRT her intention was never to demand censorship.

"Had I known this would be seen as an attack on the freedom of the press, I certainly would have tried a different way. Maybe, I would have just tried to endure it like we had been doing for a month and a half before we asked the court for help. We must protect the freedom of the press but reporters and the press must make sure their reporting is factual and accurate and that they do not intentionally misrepresent the facts," Buljan Flander said.

Vijesti HRT-a pratite na svojim pametnim telefonima i tabletima putem aplikacija za iOS i Android. Pratite nas i na društvenim mrežama Facebook, Twitter, Instagram i YouTube!