Croatian press in the dock as Tudjman pursues his enemies

A trial opens in Zagreb today where press freedom itself seems to be in the dock. Steve Crawshaw reports on crime and punishment, in President Franjo Tudjman's Croatia.

Feral Tribune, an impudently satirical weekly, is not known for showing reverence towards the powers that be. In Croatia these days such reverence is compulsory. Hence - at least in the view of many critics of the Croatian regime - today's court case.

The editors of the Feral Tribune have already been in court before, in connection with the offending article and photographs, which appeared to compare President Tudjman with Ante Pavelic, leader of the Croatian fascist state during the Second World War, and with General Franco, the Spanish dictator. They were prosecuted under a new law forbidding defamation of the President.

To the surprise of most observers, the judge acquitted the editors last Septem- ber. Shortly afterwards, Croatia was admitted into the Council of Europe - in effect, the waiting room for membership of the European Union. Croatia's membership had been put on hold, not least because of concerns about freedom of the press.

The state prosecutor appealed, however. Another court has argued that the acquittal of the journalists - editor Viktor Ivancic and leading writer Marinko Culic - has "no basis in law", and was "an essential violation of the rules of legal proceedings". Result: the case is returning to the Zagreb municipal court, for a "revised trial".

The court originally ruled that it was "absurd, unreal and inappropriate" to consider that a satirical photomontage could be regarded as a criminal offence. But the appeal court has in effect demanded that the municipal court judge come up with a better answer - "In the revised trial the court will remove all omissions pointed out and deliver a new sentence that must be explained properly".

Earlier this year, Feral Tribune published what amounted to a defence of its earlier attacks on Tudjman, with a catalogue of actions which appeared to demonstrate a tolerance of the Ustashe legacy. The original article, entitled "Bones in a Blender", attacked the "crazy and morbid" plan to "mix together the bones of the victims with those of the criminals" at Jasenovac, a notorious Ustashe concentration camp, by lining up the dead on both sides. Officially, this is seen as "reconciliation".

The attacks on Feral Tribune are only part of a wider pattern of putting pressure on independent thinkers in Croatia. Zvonimir Cicak, a leading human rights activist, faces prosecution for alleged false statements about President Tudjman. George Soros's Open Society Institute in Zagreb was recently prosecuted for falsifying official records, in a move that was widely perceived as political.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all