Gong reported the Minister of Justice for appointing his PR advisor to the work group

20. September 2022.
foto HINA /Zvonimir KUHTIĆ/ kuzo

Justice Minister Ivan Malenica has appointed Mario Aunedi Medek, co-owner of the Media Val agency, which provides communications consulting services to the same ministry, to the working group on the Lobbying Act. Medek was appointed to represent the public relations profession. Gong asked the The Commission for Conflict of interest to examine whether the minister violated the principles of action or any other institution of the Conflict of Interest Prevention Act with this appointment and whether he should have declared a potential conflict of interest, because according to the Act, private interest includes tangible and intangible benefit obligors and related persons.

If the minister appoints his communications advisor by decree to the Lobbying Act working group, we ask publicly: who exactly will protect the public's interest in this process?

Apart from the possible conflict of interest, this confirms the controversial practice of pretending to be involved, which the Plenković government is prone to and which we recently warned about: Token associations shape anti-corruption laws. In a country riddled with corruption, the anti-corruption law working groups include people from associations close to the authorities and, in this case, the owners of companies that are clients of the ministry. Therefore, there is a legitimate concern that because of their cooperation with the Government, they will not raise issues or problems that are not in the interest of the rulers, but are their extended arm. However, this case raises another question about the extent of tokenization - are the selected actors only there to silence critical voices in the development of regulations, or do they also have privileged "access to the table" to tailor regulations to their maximum business advantage in the future?

Gong has insisted for years that lobbying be regulated, stressing that in order to protect the public interest, it is necessary to transparently regulate communications with public officials that are made with the aim of influencing decision-makers. Although lobbying can be positive in a democracy, it can be a mechanism by which powerful groups influence laws and regulations to the detriment of the public interest. And that can lead to undue influence, unfair competition and political capture. The European Union recognized this long ago and established the Transparency Register, where actors trying to influence public policy must be registered and the public, civil society and the media closely monitor government-lobbyist relations. If national lobbying policies have weaker mechanisms for reporting interests, the ability of officials and public authorities to distance themselves from the influence of various actors who have access to them under privileged conditions will be seriously compromised.

Previously, Jutarnji list had already problematized the decision of the Minister of Justice to appoint professors who evaluated his doctorate to the working group regulating conflicts of interest. Now the owner of the Media Val agency, which, as Net.hr reveals, provides communications services to the Ministry of Justice (and to several other ministries), is said to be influencing the regulation of lobbying. This is an agency that worked for the Crisis headquarters of the Ministry of Health during the Corona crisis and was awarded the million-kuna contract to create the koronavirus.hr website without a tender.

Mario Aunedi Medek is not only co-owner of Media Val, but also president of the Croatian Association for Public Relations. It is undisputed that the public relations profession has its representative in the working group of the Lobbying Act, but it is totally inappropriate that he is co-owner of an agency whose client is a Minister of Justice.