by Pero JURISIN
Recently, in several installments, transcripts were published by the highest circulation Croatian news magazine Globus, under the moniker "world exclusive", which had recently slipped out of use in the said weekly. Namely, those with better memory recall that Globus definitely launched the use of attributes "exclusive" and "sensational" in the media space, while this practice was introduced by late Marinko Bozic in his Slobodni Vjesnik - ST.
The group of journalists who founded Nacional in 1995 at first adopted the same approach. The Split weekly Feral Tribune lampooned the flood of "turbo sensational" articles by publishing fictitious "sensational" reports, interviews and documents. For example, Feral, by examining hand watch advertisements, advertising watches produced by different makers, all of whom were set to ten minutes to ten, "discovered exclusively" a global conspiracy of watchmakers.
The abovementioned three news magazines are the most influential magazines in Croatia and the difference in their circulation is only a partial indicator of their political influence. Namely, although Globus sells about 70,000 copies per issue, Nacional about half as much, and Feral Tribune a few thousands of copies less than Nacional, the political establishment without doubt pays equal attention to all three.
Feral's Dossiers: Unlike the other two, Feral Tribune has been unwavering in its criticism of the authorities, regardless of the change of authorities two years ago. The chief critics in the non-satirical part of the magazine are the current editor-in-chief, Heni Erceg, and one of the most prominent Croatian political analysts, Marinko Culic. Perhaps the criticism is not as fierce as in the nineties, but not because of Feral's attempt to ingratiate itself with the new authorities. Rather, the times have changed since the "leaden" rule of the HDZ. On the other hand, the authorities haven't changed their attitude with respect to Feral either. Just like HDZ officials were forbidden to give interviews or even state anything for Feral, today Prime Minister Ivica Racan, for whose party Feral was the only line of communication with the public in the nineties, "is too busy" for an interview. In the nineties, Viktor Ivancic, at the time editor-in-chief of Feral Tribune was the only editor of a newspaper or magazine in Croatia to be called to serve in the military. A recent declassification of Tudman's secret police files revealed that Ivancic had the thickest file of all journalists followed and monitored by the police. New authorities most likely do not bug phones at Feral Tribune's offices, nor do policemen visit them, but the authorities flinch at intermittent accusations of collaboration with the former authorities, inconsistency in implementation of pre-election promises and adoption of some policies of Tudman's regime.
Although Feral Tribune and Viktor Ivancic have received a series of international awards, the magazine hasn't been awarded a single prize in Croatia, nor even in Split, its home town, nor has it ever been recognized by any state or local official. At its founding in 1993 the chief contributors were journalists of Slobodna Dalmacija who had left the newspaper after it had been taken over by the HDZ; Viktor Ivancic, Predrag Lucic, Boris Dezulovic, Jelena Lovric, Djermano Senjanovic, Heni Erceg, Merinko Culic, later Drago Hedl, and legendary journalist and writer Miljenko Smoje, who wrote for the magazine until his death.
Warmongering: Globus, on the other hand, as the flagship publication of Europa Press Holding, the largest publishing company in Croatia, has gone through numerous changes in its editorial policy since its founding 11 years ago. Today, Globus, through its owner Nino Pavic and editor-in-chief Davor Butkovic maintains close links with the authorities. In the late nineties Globus contributed to the process of democratization, and thereby erosion of HDZ's grip on power. In the last two years the magazine has recruited several distinguished Croatian journalists, some of whom, for example Boris Dezulovic and Miljenko Jergovic, came from Feral Tribune, contributing to the liberal orientation of the magazine. One of the best known Globus' journalists is Anton Masle, a fugitive from a prison in Montenegro who has survived several assassination attempts, most likely related to his reports on Hercegovina mafia. Another contributor is Pero Zlatar, a winner of the award for life achievements in the years when he wrote for Nacional. Probably the most popular column in the magazine is the one authored by Zeljko Malnar, "president of the Republic of Pescenica" - actually a district of Zagreb, in which Malnar writes about the dark side of Croatia. However, in the early nineties Globus had an entirely different editorial policy, and some editors and journalists active in that period still work for the magazine. In the early nineties, Globus frequently distorted wartime reality and incited hatred. In Mark Thompson's book Forging War, Globus is mentioned along Bozic's ST as a magazine that in 1990 and 1991 "resorted to open warmongering, supported expansionist policy of Croatia in Bosnia and in the name of patriotism incited hatred and fear, highly politicizing media discourse". The current writer of the editorial column, Tanja Torbarina, contributed to that trend, and a big scandal broke out after the publication of the article "Croatian Feminists Rape Croatia!" in which Croatian writers Jelena Lovric, Rada Ivekovic, Slavenka Drakulic, Vesna Kesic, and Dubravka Ugresic were brutally and dangerously denounced. That article, published on December 11, 1992, infamous as the article about "witches from Rio" and published under the byline "investigative team", was actually written by one of still key columnists, Slaven Letica, and is believed to be one of most drastic examples of violations of human rights and freedoms in the so-called high-brow press.
Globus discovered many affairs during the HDZ rule. However, effectively, it served as means for struggles within the HDZ, as different factions within the HDZ fed the magazine with documents discrediting their opponents within the ruling party.
Yugoslavs and Communists: Another memorable example is the article "media fifth column", written by Vuk Djuricic and published in the weekly Nedjeljna Dalmacija on January 20, 1995. The article attacked a series of distinguished journalists who allegedly "denounce their country while working for foreign media companies" and are also "advocates of pro-Yugoslav policies and Communist ideology," which at the time was a life threatening charge. It is interesting that the then editor of Nedjeljna Dalmacija Dubravko Grakalic is today an editor in Globus. Nedjeljna Dalmacija today has a totally different editorial policy, a result of the purges carried out by the new authorities a year ago in May. However, it still has a very low circulation, failing to compete with Globus, Nacional and Feral Tribune.
Orange Beauties: Nacional was founded in the fall of 1995 by a group of journalists who had left Globus unhappy with its editorial policy. Led by Ivo Pukanic, Sina Karli, Maroje Mihovilovic and Mladen Plese, they launched a weekly, initially advertised as the "global weekly", contrary to Globus, advertised as the "national weekly". Apart from opting for orange color and pinups on the front page of every issue, the new weekly magazine was a carbon copy of Globus, printed in green, as far as its editorial policy was concerned. Both magazines opted for sensationalistic approach to their topics, and at first they even wrote about same issues, so that at first the public was convinced that the new magazine was nothing but a business trick of Pavic and company. However, time has shown that Nacional was after all an independent project of a group of journalists, and with time it became increasingly fierce in its attacks on the HDZ and Tudman's regime. With a series of articles by Jasna Babic, Nacional weekly unmasked crime in the very top of the HDZ hierarchy. The magazine reacted increasingly fiercely to the pressure applied by the authorities. Columnist Srecko Jurdana savaged in his weekly column "Pillars of society" characters from the HDZ's milieu, as well as some from the opposition. Jurdana has remained faithful to his style until today. Nevertheless, although his Nacional column savaged the HDZ, many still recall his articles glorifying the HDZ, published in Vecernji List, as well as the fact that Jurdana was at one point the editor of Glasnik HDZ-a [HDZ Herald] .
Nacional, just like Globus, developed good contacts with embassies in Zagreb. This contacts were used for protection from HDZ's persecution after the uncovering of the biggest scandals, as the one in connection with the bankruptcy of Dubravacka Bank, in which the HDZ "skunked away" $300 million. Obsessed with the desire to finish Nino Pavic off, director of Nacional Ivo Pukanic almost destroyed his magazine by launching a daily newspaper Republika. The daily lasted for six months, failing in the race against Pavic's Jutarnji List and Vecernji List, in the meantime sold to the Austrian publisher Styria.
In the late 90s Nacional almost weekly scandalized the public by publishing information about the corrupt nature of the HDZ-run authorities, and links between politicians, police, secret services, judiciary and criminals. The magazine had a big jump in circulation after the inauguration of president Mesic and publication of transcripts of conversations from the office of the late president Tudman, which clearly illustrated the functioning of Tudman's regime. Nacional did not confine itself within Croatian borders, and with assistance of sources from abroad "broke" the tobacco smuggling scandal. According to Nacional, Milo Djukanovic, Zoran Djindjic, and certain mafia boss Stanko Subotic were implicated in large scale tobacco smuggling in the region. Today the magazine is trying to create a distance with respect to the current authorities. Denis Latin, a columnist and TV personality, last year declared for the journalist of the year in Croatia, contributes to that trend.
To lie for Croatia: Jutarnji List, daily newspaper with the second largest circulation in Croatia, right behind Vecernji List, is today most definitely the best organized newspaper whose staff mostly consists of former journalists from Slobodna Dalmacija and Novi List. Launched in the twilight of Tudman's regime, when readership demanded information different from that that could be obtained from state TV and state-run dailies Vjesnik, Slobodna Dalmacija and Vecernji List, the daily uncovered numerous scandals, including the failure of the Tudman family to truthfully report its property, as obliged by law, and thereby contributed to the fall of Tudman's regime. Today, Jutarnji List is published by EPH and, just like EPH, it is jointly owned by Nino Pavic and German publishing company WAZ.
Vecernji List is the main competitor of Pavic's daily newspaper. Its management has recently fired Branko Tuden, who had been editor-in-chief for 12 years, and today edits Sportske Novosti [sport news], owned by Nino Pavic. Tuden's professionalism is best illustrated by one of the biggest gaffes of Croatian journalism, when on April 4, 1996 Vecernji List reported that American official Ronald Brown had landed in Dubrovnik, leading a 15-member American delegation. Unfortunately, the airplane had crashed near the airport in Dubrovnik and all on board had died in the crash. Dunja Ujevic, the main columnist of the newspaper at the time, stated on one occasion that she was prepared to lie for Croatia.
Today Vecernji List is trying to leave its past behind, but it is noticeable that it is still firmly entrenched on the "right" of the political spectrum, unlike Novi List, the Croatian counterpart of the Belgrade daily Danas, which maintains its position of the left of the political spectrum. Although in comparison with 140,000 sold copies of Vecernji List and about 110,000 sold copies of Jutranji List, Novi List with its 50 or so thousand sold copies is less influential, Jelena Lovric, generally considered to be the best columnist in Croatia, writes for the newspaper. Another distinguished columnist, journalist Drago Pilsel, is often critical of the current authorities as well.
The biggest transformation took place in Slobodna Dalmacija, where in May 2001 the new authorities fired the editorial board that had turned that newspaper definitely into HDZ's hatemongering bulletin, publishing fake interview with general Mirko Norac and similar excesses, along the line of similar articles [inciting hatred against Bosnian Muslims] published in Slobodna Dalmacija in 1993, when the HDZ took over the newspaper. Slobodna Dalmacija maintains the circulation of about 70,000 copies and, despite sticking to black and white print, is slowly regaining its readership in Dalmatia [coastal region of Croatia]. The biggest difficulty facing the newspaper is the debt of about $50 million. However, the authorities have promised to take care of the old debts, the way they did with state-owned daily newspaper Vjesnik, today edited by Kresimir Fijacko, who replaced Igor Mandic, after the latter had carried out a purge in the paper Nenad Ivankovic had converted into an intelligence bulletin of Tudman's regime.