CEOL - Human Rights group files suit against Croatian TV

ZAGREB, Dec 19, 1999 -- (Reuters) A Croatian human rights group filed a suit on Friday against state television HRT for refusing to air a rock video aimed at motivating youngsters to vote in a parliamentary election on January 3.

HRT, often labeled by Western diplomats as a propaganda machine for the ruling HDZ, banned the clip on Thursday, saying that its content was disputable.

The ban came as Croatia was facing a period of profound political change after the death last week of its founder, autocratic President Franjo Tudjman.

"The ban shows that HRT remains a television (station) of the regime and that the authorities do not want to broadcast a video which calls on the young to vote," said Zinka Bardic, spokesperson for Glass 99, a non-governmental election-monitoring group.

The video clip, called "New Time", is a remake of a 1970s Yugoslav punk rock satire and shows some 20 popular Croatian rock stars singing about new times and new tasks, vowing there should be "no more of the same old crap".

"It is classical censorship," added Vesna Alaburic, a lawyer for the group who filed a law suit against HRT and its editor-in-chief, Obrad Kosovac. It was "tragic that democratic Croatia should discuss a 20-year old song that we freely listened to in the communist times", Alaburic said.

But not everyone agreed. "To tell the truth, there is an implicit political message in it, which perhaps should not be there, given that Glas 99 is a non-governmental and non-party group," said an observer who asked not to be named.

Opinion polls show the centre-left opposition clearly ahead of the nationalist conservatives HDZ. The HDZ has been ruling Croatia since the first free polls in 1990, but has failed to reform the economy and bring the country closer to the West.

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