Media after elections


MON, 24 JAN 2000

Zagreb, 16 January, 2000 - "Recycled communists would like to remove people, they are demanding resignation of numerous persons as if a revolution had taken place and not a change in the parliament customary for Europe", with these words the insulted editor-in-chief of Croatian Television (HTV) commented the appeal of the victorious coalition of the Croatian Social Liberal Party (HSLS) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) addressed to employees of public enterprises, Croatian Television inclusive, to put their offices at the disposal of the new authorities. It seems that Kosovac was mostly affected by the words of the president of SDP Ivica Racan that posts will have to be abandoned by "those people, and this refers to individuals who were appointed by politicians to important posts in institutions of the administration or public institutions". Kosovac proclaimed such Racan's stand an ordinary communist platitude which is meant as the skilful editor-in-chief put it, " to make the victims leave with a feeling that they were justly eliminated".

The change of the regime seems to have brought back Obrad Kosovac's memories of the great purge of journalists on ethnic grounds which followed the first parliamentary elections, when the Croat Democratic Community came to power. Obviously it is very difficult for him to accept the very thought that he will lose his position on Television where as he says "he is professionally doing his job for thirty five years already", because he is well aware that an end has come to his dictate on TV. That is why lost in amazement and in his recognisable arrogant manner, Kosovac, the "professional" wonders: "Why would I resign if in programs of HTV I supported Tudjman's option of a firm, upright and stable state?" Indeed, a surprising question for a man who has become a TV celebrity thanks to submissive readiness to loyally serve the master in.

Probably a professional of Kosovacís profile cannot understand how come the new regime, contrary to the previous one, has no need for his services. The road to fame of this "expert for the media" started back in communism with fawning documentary films about "Tito's Great Initiative" and criminal role of Cardinal Alojzije Stepinac. When Tudjman's regime came to power, Kosovac underwent a political transformation, and in accordance with his passion for documentary films, he made films such as: "Dr. Tudjman - We Have Croatia", "From Waste Land to Croatia's Independence", "Creation of Croatian State". He immediately tried to correct the historical blunder he had made at the time of communist darkness when wishing to please the former regime he made the documentary on cardinal Stepinac as Nazi collaborationist, so after the regime had changed he adapted his work of art to the new power-wielders and proclaimed Stepinac a martyr-saint.

However, the by now Kosovac's nationalistic propagandist service of Franjo Tudjman's regime did not limit itself to making documentary films of dubious credibility. The words with which he addressed the journalists of HTV information program best testify in what way Obrad Kosovac decided to serve the regime: "From now on you know who's the boss around here! For you I am HOS (Croatian Intelligence Service)". This was a specific introduction to systematic purges and degradation of journalists which followed. At the time, according to the words of Tomislav Jakic, former editor of foreign political and information desk of Zagreb Television who was sacked from work at the time Antun Vrdoljak was the director - about 300 journalists were removed. The removal started at the time Hrvoje Hitrec was the director with marginalisation of the "unacceptable" journalists and after that the policy of sacking of the new director Antun Vrdoljak followed. The reasons for sacking according to testimonies of the disobedient journalists were different. But the stress was mostly on ethnic and/or political inadequacy of the journalists.

That is why it should not surprise anybody that journalists such as Obrad Kosovac, Hloverka Novak-Srzic, Miljenko Manjkas and the team of the notorious Motrista, who evidently - Hloverka and Obrad openly - advocated the policy of the ruling party, are nowadays afraid of alleged revenge-seeking of the once banished colleagues but also of the former opposition which the mentioned journalists often criticised, harassed and accused by their "professional objectivity". They seem to be afraid that the hurt and insulted might get even with them.

Although the once unjustly banished or degraded group of television journalists gathered in Forum 21 and the union of journalists called the Right to Profession do not wish to seek satisfaction for the injustice they experienced by revenge, but - as claimed by the executive editor of the mentioned union - by establishing responsibility of those who transformed into propagandists of HDZ and who concealed the truth and launched lies. Jakic stresses that since changes must be introduced in HTV, that it should not be done the way HDZ did it. It seems that fear of some is justified.

Pathological fear of revenge has seized other media as well, especially the so-called state-building press. In this sense, the daily with the largest circulation in Croatia Vecernji list and Slobodna Dalmacija (until recently Kutle's) from Split blaze the trail. For instance Zeljko Kruselj, journalist of Vecernji list cannot cease to wonder at his colleague Maja Freundlich for her ultra-nationalistic stands in interpreting the crushing election results of her favourite HDZ. Kruselj is shocked by his former rival in fawning the now former power-wielders. The lucid Kruselj cannot understand how Freunlich arrived at the conclusion that the cause of HDZ's election debacle is the fact "that when it was taking over power it did not sack tens thousand of people and bring instead of them people who would have been ready to endure all challenges of isolationism probably by the Serbian model in order to oppose dictate of the international community for as long as possible". Although amazed by such a stand Kruselj says that "one could not have expected Freundlich would have any scruples for her political opponents anyway". However, it is painful for him that with such a stand Maja "intentionally or not, insulted the whole electorate". Kruselj's new political rhetoric would not have been so disgusted if it had not reminded so much of the rhetoric of the winning coalition.

"I can just say that after six years we have finally got satisfaction for the strike we organised because of embezzlement in transformation", with these words Ilija Marsic, president of the association of claimants of shares of Slobodna Dalmacija, commented the decision of the court which abolished the disgraceful transformation of this once reputable Split daily which has a large circulation.

Slobodna Dalmacija was privatised in 1993 by the decision of the Agency for restructuring and development headed by Zlatko Matesa nowadays already former prime minister. This decision questioned the purchase of fifty per cent of shares by small share-holders, while ownership worth four million German marks was recognised to three banks - Split, Economic and Dubrovnik bank - based on promissory notes of the former federation. The foundation capital of Slobodna Dalmacija was estimated at the time at ten million German marks. About 43 per cent of the property of the said daily was given to the banks at the time, and the banks then gave it to the known Croatian tycoon Miroslav Kutle, that is, his Globus Grupa. How Kutle managed Slobodna Dalmacija is best testified by the most optimistic estimates of the debt which amounts to about 300 million German marks. Only after Tudjman's regime renounced its favourite "entrepreneur", the six-year long transformation Odyssey of this Split daily set out towards its final solution.

If data are compared according to which Slobodna Dalmacija before Kutle's reign was sold in 120 thousand copies with the nowadays disgracing 40 thousand sold copies, having in mind enormous losses in business dealing, small share-holders are unfortunately celebrating Pyrrhic victory. And that this is true is testified by a considerably relaxed statement of the editor-in-chief of Slobodna Dalmacija, Josip Jovic: "Let it be. This belongs in the past". "Slobodna Dalmacija should", Jovic added, "turn to its future, and what happened before should be forgotten". In harmony with Jovic's inappropriate tolerance, small share-holders and all honest employees of this daily should forget that the regime of HDZ shamelessly robbed and at least reduced three times the circulation of this daily; nothing need be said about the degraded reputation of Slobodna Dalmacija.

Miroslav Ivic, president of the management board of Slobodna Dalmacija and one of the participants in its devastation, suddenly discovered that the management had always been in favour of the employees playing a role in decision-making". Ivic also concluded that the management wished Slobodna to be an independent daily and in order to achieve that "the best solution is to let small share-holders have majority ownership". The ones this gentleman is addressing will pass the best judgement about the hypocrisy of Ivicís declarations, because they were the ones who suffered the most from the six-year calvary of Slobodna Dalmacija. From the quoted words of Miroslav Ivic it can be concluded how keen on independent journalism they have been in this daily in the past six years.

If the precondition for freedom of expression and creation was solution of the ownership dispute, this is already visible in post-election issues of Slobodna Dalmacija. On the one hand, it is possible to read in this newspaper critical articles about the once untouchable person, Croatian general Ljubo Cesic-Rojs and his 66th brigade which was in charge of building Potemkin villages.

On the other hand - in the spirit of new Jovicís policy on pluralism of journalistic expression - a column in this daily was given to Josko Celan who cannot be reconciled with the fact that HDZ must step down from power. Accordingly, militant Celan writes the following in his column titled "After the Battle": "They need not be ashamed of having lost the first - but not the last - battle against the powerful globalisation steam-roller which is squashing religions, nations and identities even more powerful than ours. But it is a shame that it was lost like this - practically without putting up a fight". Except to Celan, Jovic has also given Zoran Vukman, the known supporter of Bleiburg, space for ideological self-fulfilment.

"I am a journalist of the regime, but of a democratic regime in which a party that won in democratic elections is in power", said Hloverka Novak-Srzic back in 1992. The question is whether madam Hloverka will repeat the same words in the year 2000?!

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