RTL Croatia’s journalist, Damira Gregoret, whose specialty is politics, is a reporter, news anchor and hosts political shows. Not long ago the Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic, apologized to her for saying “You are so sweet Damira” instead of replying to her question he didn’t like. What followed was a public apology to Gregoret.
We talked with her about the media climate in Croatia and the false news, especially now, before the presidential elections; then about the role of the media associations, which almost vanished from the sight; and also about the digital media, who are taking over the media space.
Is the general public capable of recognizing the false news and how much is it present in Croatian media?
-In the last five to six years, we have been having problems with recognizing the disinformation, the false news. Even though I cannot be certain what I should call this news, i.e. whether any information that the journalist conveys due to not knowing better or because of lack of knowledge is false news or just disinformation. On the other hand, it is clear that the false news is something that is published on purpose.
Who is the main source of the false news?
I would say that we in Croatia have no major problems with false news, at least not in the mainstream media, but there is a certain distortion of facts on the margins of the media scene, which can be characterized as false news. This is something that hasn’t become a major problem, because the mainstream media in Croatia, luckily, are still dominant, but certainly, that should be detected and a reaction should follow. The question is how? I’m worried about the data regarding Serbia and it is incredible how this country has brought itself in a situation that it is in now. The issue is maybe about the joint synergy i.e. the comradeship which doesn’t necessarily has to be within the frame of one state. The journalists should be more careful and in the end, to inform more institutions including the European Commission.
What is the main subject that the false news is tied to?
The migrants, but I will say again that it is happening on the margins of the media scene, where the number of migrants has been blown out of proportions and on the other hand there were warnings that the migrants are aggressive, which in certain circumstances can happen. But a journalist should exercise positive discrimination, i.e. not to publish every news that can lead to hatred based on this.
I remember the text that mentioned that migrants have stormed and robbed several houses, and only the next day information arrived from the police that it was one house only and that it wasn’t robbed by the migrants. That way, the fear of migrants which spread throughout Europe is present here and is used for the creation of false news.
is there any reaction from the citizens, the society, the public, institutions?
-It is difficult for me to explain with the use of numbers and facts how each reacts. I think that the people are inclined to believe this type of false news, because it is more simple – people feel safe inside within the borders of their country where there are no foreigners in it that are disturbing the order. But I think there should be a responsibility on part of the media and that the media are the ones that have to position themselves and disperse these fears. Certainly, not by not informing, but only by explaining to the people that in the whole situation you still have to act like a human. They should act humanely.
Please explain how are these issues legally regulated in Croatia, whether there are special regulations that refer to hate speech, false news?
– There have been talks about it even though it is difficult for me to imagine how it would be regulated. I am certain that a way can be found. There is a journalist codex that doesn’t mention any sanctions within it. The Croatian Media Association is active in this domain, but only as a backup. We can always do better in the fight against false news and hate speech, but the situation is not alarming.