The well publicised scandal of the discovery of phone hacking practices (July 2011) within some of Rupert Murdoch owned News Corporation media outlets unleashed a string of inquiries in the United Kingdom. Similar inquiries were announced in the USA and Australia.
Murdoch swiftly killed-off the News of the World newspaper where first phone hacking practices were discovered.
The United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron promptly announced to parliament that a public government inquiry would convene to further investigate the affair. He named Lord Justice Leveson as chairman of the inquiry, with a remit to look into the specific claims about phone hacking, the initial police inquiry and allegations of illicit payments to police by the press, and a second inquiry to review the general culture and ethics of the British media.
Leaving aside some concerns about the impact of state media regulation on the free press that such public inquiries may have, one needs to observe that the governments of the above countries (and others) may in fact consider themselves the guardians of the old journalistic maxim: Get it first. But, first, get it right.
Doctoring stories or assembling video or audio tapes in order to present to the public a journalistic piece designed to deceive, spread hatred, half-truths, untruths, or political gain doesn’t in my opinion fall far from phone hacking found within the Murdoch media.
Croatian TV HRT had in its main news in November 2011, during the days of the 2oth Anniversary of the tragic and horrible fall of Vukovar and General Elections campaigns released a story on the 1991 Fall of Vukovar.
The audio part to the story was, the news anchor/editor Zoran Sprajc said, a taped telephone conversation from 1991 between the late President Dr. Franjo Tudjman and Vukovar’s Croatian commander Mile Dedakovic Jasterb.
In the televised conversation, Tudjman refuses Dedakovic’s requests to withdraw civilians and children from Vukovar, giving the Croatian public “evidence” that Tudjman sacrificed Vukovar in order to show the world how brutal the Serbs were, or to speed up international recognition of Croatian independence.
Of course, a public outcry of disenchantment and anger at Tudjman (and his HDZ party running in November 2011 elections for another term in government) followed.
The conservative politicians (HDZ) protested against the televised story and sought the suspension of Zoran Sprajc as anchor/editor of the TV news program. HRT did just that, quickly.
The Programming Council of HRT had assessed the televised conversation story as inclinatory, malicious, and assembled elsewhere. It reiterated that TV was a public media and must present the truth and do so objectively.
The destiny of suspension from duties that Sprajc experienced is nothing out of the ordinary – suspension from duties while serious complaints inquiries are carried out is a normal practice in the just world. Not in all Croatia it seems?
Some public rallies in support of Sprajc appeared on the streets. The Croatian journalists’ association criticized the suspension, and human rights watchdog Documenta expressed “deep concern with the persecution of journalists because of their broadcasting of the truth.” Former president Stjepan Mesic (left wing politics) also stepped in, criticising the measures demanded by the conservatives (HDZ etc).
Come January 2012, and in relation to the said TV news story, sources reveal that:
(a) Dedakovic was not in Vukovar at the time of the dramatised “desperate call to Tudjman for help” as HRT piece claimed;
(b) the HRT piece was assembled from parts of several phone conversations some of which were made by Tudjman (HRT claimed Dedakovic phoned Tudjman);
(c) HRT piece showed that Tudjman absolutely rejected to evacuate children from Vukovar but omitted to broadcast the fact that the Serbs and Serb led Yugoslav Army did not allow evacuation of civilians including children without Vukovar capitulating first!
So far, there has been no public statement from the Croatian journalists association, from the Documenta human rights watchdog, from former or current presidents of Croatia nor from the current government regarding the latest revelation that points to gross and malicious deception of the Croatian public through story doctoring and assembling of audio tapes in order to serve the public with lies that wound deeply the very soul of Croatian Homeland War.
Certainly, there hasn’t been even an inkling of a suggestion in Croatian media that the government may set up inquiries into journalistic practices. It would seem that all the protestors against Sprajc’s suspension are happy to sweep the truth under the carpet and together with the government allow the unsavory, unethical, politically corrupt journalistic practices to thrive?
No one it seems has asked: where and how else in the Croatian media is the public being deceived and why?
Had a look on the Croatia’s parliament website and there are a number of sessions to be held this month. Perhaps some member of parliament, if not the government’s president, will stand up during one of these meetings and demand an independent government funded inquiry into journalistic practices in Croatia. Ina Vukic, Prof.(Zgb), B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)