Lex is Latin for law and the AP derives from the initials of Prime Minister Andrej Plenković — specifically from leaked WhatsApp communications featuring Gabrijela Žalac, a former minister of regional development and European Union funds in Plenković’s ruling Croatian Democratic Union coalition. Žalac is under investigation by the European Public Prosecutor’s Office for alleged embezzlement; the leaks feature statements such as “tomorrow we will arrange an agreement with ap.”
Croatia was ranked 57 out of 180 countries in Transparency International’s 2023 index of perceived corruption — tied with Malaysia. The group cited Croatia as among those countries where “reporting on corruption is becoming increasingly challenging for journalists … due to heightened use of strategic lawsuits against public participation.”
“Croatia would not know about the numerous affairs that have come to light, if it weren’t for investigative journalism,” Zovko said.
In 2013, for example, Chamber of Commerce head Nadan Vidošević was arrested for allegedly embezzling more than €4 million after the Jutarnji list daily newspaper published photos of his private art collection, valued at €5 million. The policeman who leaked the pictures to the paper was suspended.
“The main purpose of this law is to protect the image of Mr. Plenković and his party in a super election year,” Zovko claimed. In 2024 Croatians will go to the polls for the European election in June, a domestic parliamentary election in September and a presidential election in December.
Following months of criticism and accusations of media supression, the government proposed the bill be amended to exempt journalists from liability as long as there is an “overriding public interest” in what they disclose. “We believe that the court in each specific case can assess whether something is of interest,” Minister of Justice and Public Administration Ivan Malenica said on Tuesday.