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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Sport
sport
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine