NEWS
Committee to Protect Journalists
330 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10001 USA Phone: (212) 4651004 Fax: (212) 465-9568
Web: www.cpj.org
E-Mail: [email protected]
For Immediate Release
Contact: Judith Leynse, ext. 105; William A. Orme, Jr., ext. 102 Phone: (212) 465-1004

U.S. Press Freedom Group Protests Retrial of Croatia's Feral Tribune

New York, N.Y., Dec. 19, 1997 - The Committee to Protect Journalists has written to Croatian President Franjo Tudjman to protest the resumption on December 22 of criminal proceedings against Viktor Ivancic, editor of the satirical weekly newspaper Feral Tribune, and Marinko Culic, a reporter for the paper.

In a December 17 letter to Tudjman, CPJ called on him to “take the lead in pressing for the elimination of all statutes that criminalize criticism and satire of public officials in Croatia,” noting that “no journalist in a Western democracy is in prison today on charges of seditious libel.”

Ivancic received an International Press Freedom Award from CPJ in New York on October 23 in recognition of his courage in continuing his often-irreverent coverage of Croatian politics and hard-hitting reporting of atrocities while fighting constant legal harassment and death threats.

Ivancic and Culic are scheduled to appear at a hearing Monday before the same Zagreb Municipal Court judge who acquitted them in September 1996 of charges of “rudely and falsely slandering the president.” The Zagreb District Court of Appeals admitted an appeal from the state attorney in May and ordered a retrial, alleging the Municipal Court had violated technical provisions of the Croatian Penal Code.

“This renewed effort to silence and intimidate Feral Tribune journalists is clearly aimed at forcing them and other independent media to cease questioning government policies,” said William A. Orme, Jr., CPJ executive director. “As a press freedom organization dedicated to promoting the freeflow of information worldwide, we call upon Croatia’s President Tudjman to recognize that a fearless, independent press is the best guarantee of a democratic society.”

The case stems from the publication on April 29, 1996, by the Split-based Feral Tribune of an article titled “Bones in the Mixer” and a photo montage that satirized Tudjman’s plan to build a single monument in the former World War II concentration camp of Jasenovac and bury the bones of Croatian Fascists alongside those of their Jewish, Serb, Roma, and Croat victims. The state attorney charged the journalists with seditious libel under Articles 71 and 72 of the Croatian Penal Code, which punishes criticism of the country’s top five leaders with up to three years’ imprisonment.

It was the first application of the amendments, passed by the Croatian parliament in March 1996. CPJ board member James C. Goodale, a noted First Amendment attorney, traveled to Zagreb to present an amicus brief in support of the defendants. Municipal Court Judge Marin Mrcela acquitted them, ruling that the article and photographs were intended as political commentary. But the appeals court overturned his decision on a technicality, while ignoring the substance of the case.

For information on Viktor Ivancic and CPJ’s work on behalf of press freedom in Croatia, visit http://www.cpj.org/awards97/Ivancic.html.
The Committee to Protect Journalists is a nonprofit, independent organization that works to safeguard press freedom around the world.

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