Can the public find out who owns the media through free access to the essential information required?
In Croatia, it is possible to finds out who owns print, broadcast and online media in Croatia through information reported to: the relevant media authorities; directly to the public; or to corporate /trade registers. Through the various amendments to the Media Law (2011) and the Electronic Media Law (2012), media must disclose enough information for their real owners to be identified right back to the individual, not just to a company. This includes information on the all shareholdings over 1%, disclosure of beneficial owners and those with indirect interests and control and a bans on “secret” ownership.
Despite some well-defined provisions, the speed with which the amendments to the Media Act and Electronic Media Act were passed and the lack of consultation has resulted in serious omissions in the monitoring and enforcement side to the law. For example:
- Media companies do not always publish information on indirect ownership yet there is no institution authorised by the Media Act to monitor compliance and to apply sanctions.
- The obligation to report ownership rests with the media outlet itself yet the media outlet cannot be certain that a person formally entered into its company shareholder register is the actual shareholder.
- The supervisory body, the Croatian Chamber of Economy (CCE), is not provided with sufficient resources adequately to monitor compliance or check information.
The amendments have had little impact on the ownership structure of Croatian media thus far since most of the privatisation processes, many of which were reported to be suspicious or controversial, were completed before 2011. In the absence of an effective enforcement mechanism, there have been no legal proceedings and the questionable ownership structures remain.
Although corporate law requires all the essential information to be disclosed, a complete understanding of complex relationships which can lead to effective control of a third person behind the visible owner is required to understand the ultimate ownership of media in Croatia.
DRAFT – FOR PUBLIC CONSULTATION: This research has been carried out by national experts and is open for consultation. Please let us know if you have any suggestions, or if you spot any errors or omissions by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Court Register Act (in Croatian)