Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Opposition in Croatia

The Opposition in Croatia
Sven Balas
From: Burn This House

Over the course of this blog, I haven't written much about Croatia. The three or four posts dedicated to Croatian topics, seem to focus around Tudjman and the HDZ. While of course the former are very important topics; it is obviously important not to reduce the entire Croatian war experience to the actions of the Presidency and most radical element of the Croatian political scene.

Surely Croats suffered greatly in the war, from the siege of Vukovar to the experience along with the Bosniaks in the camps and seeking refuge in refugee centers across the globe.

And just like there was some opposition to Milosevic's murderous ethnic-cleansing campaign in Serbia; there was also some opposition to Tudjman's ultra nationalism and dictatorship in Croatia.

And I think that I also focus on that aspect of the Croatian war experience, besides just focusing solely on the negative aspects.

So, with that lengthy introduction, here is "The Opposition in Croatia" by Sven Balas.

This essay, part of the book "Burn This House" focuses on the role of the independent media played in resisting Trudjman's nationalism.
In the climate filled with both overt and covert pressure to subsume to the "party line" it was not an easy task.
Perhaps the most illustrative example is that of "Slobodna Dalmacija" A high quality newspaper; in 1991 it denounced Croatian violation of the human rights of Serbs, a topic that the other newspapers didn't want to touch with a ten foot pole.
Trudjman's government decided to privatized the paper, and the best journalists quit in protest. The result that the paper under government supervision and the editorial policy parroted that of the government.
If the experience of "SD" is a cautionary tale of the limits of expressing independent thoughts in Trudjman's Croatia; than the experience of "Feral Tribune" is a much more hopeful example.

Feral Tribune's mastered boldly declares that the newspaper is "the property of those who write and read it." Combining satirical and analytical journalism, the basic message it proclaimed was that not all Croats were the same, set out to kill Muslims and Serbs. And not all Serbs were the same, set out to kill Croats.
Written at times in a deeply ironic prose, Feral Tribune utilize wit and common sense to talk about the war in a way that very few papers were capable of doing.

While Feral Tribune utilizes irony and sarcasm to make a point, perhaps the most illustrative example of this is their use of creative illustrations; such as the one in the winter of 1993 showing a composite of a naket Trudjman enjoying a "pillow chat" with a naked Milosevic. The text below reads "Is This What We Fought For;" the paper was one of the best papers for analyzing all aspects of the war and the effect of the war on the people and institutions in the former Yugoslavia.

The use of "scandalous" graphics on the frontpage was exploited by the Tudjman government. In 1994 a "pornography" task was slapped on the paper. The aim was to destroy the paper financially, and therefore put it out of circulation; while at the same time, not make it appear as the Trudjman government was engaging in censorship. This censorship by proxy would give Trudjman the double advantage of having one of the most critical voices of his policies shut down, while at the sametime, having Tudjman still appear "democratic."

Given the experience of "Slobodna Dalmacija" it would seem as if the "Feral Tribune" would follow the same pathway of formerly independent newspapers who would become a mouthpiece for the government.
Yet, for some reason it didn't happen. And I use the very ubiquitous term "some reason" because the essay does not explain why Feral was able to resist. Was it because the "porn tax" wasn't succesful, was it because Feral received financial aid from outside sources, was it because of a particularly determined editorial staff?
None of that is explained in the essay. But what is explained is the newspaper's continuous role as a voice in the wilderness of nationalism.

Feral frequently denounced the racism and anti-Semitism of the most extreme in Croatian society. It addressed the great taboo of Croatian war crimes. In 1993 it was the first journal to break the story of the HDZ war against the Bosniaks. "Officially" the story was very similar to the story given by elements of "Greater Serbia" just a year ago. That the Bosniaks will getting aid from extremists Muslim terrorists, determined to turn Bosnia into a Shari'a state.
Feral Tribune as it did in the past did not take the official party line as fact; instead it did investigations into HDZ run camps for Bosniak civilians; and the role of the Herceg-Bosna leadership in instigating and causing the Muslim-Croat war, and HDZ camps.
Feral tribune also posted about atrocities committed against Serb civilians. It was indeed the only journal in Croatia to report the existence of ten mass graves of Serb civilians. Feral also posted about human rights violations, abuses and crimes committed against Serb civilians during the "Operation Storm" period.

Feral Tribune was recognized for the reporting and received a "Freedom of Reporting" award from the International Press Directory. Although Trudjman claimed the paper was "anti Croat" and traitorous to the cause of the Croatian state, by reporting the stories no one else would; and by not taking Trudjman's government's word on everything; Feral Tribune served the Croatian people and Croatia in a way that is more true and patriotic than anything rudjman's government could have done.


Owen said...

Thanks Shaina. I didn't know much about the background, but was just aware that Feral Tribune was a real beacon of honest criticism and truthful reporting.

(And also thanks for the "technical support" solution - although I rather enjoy the "word by word" approach - it's an educative process!)

Owen said...

KIGALI (Reuters) - A Rwandan government-appointed commission launched a probe on Tuesday into allegations French troops supported soldiers behind Rwanda's 1994 genocide and helped facilitate mass murder.


"The French sent troops, weapons, trained killers and manned roadblocks to facilitate murderers in achieving their mission of exterminating Tutsis," Jacques Bihozagara, a former Rwandan ambassador to France, told the commission.

Bihozagara, who was part of the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front, which launched its war against the Hutu authorities in the early 1990s, said French officials had warned the group to stop its fight.

"You will reach Kigali to only find all your relatives perished," Bihozagara quoted them as saying.

"I wonder whether these French officials were prophets or indeed were part of the planning process," he added."

Anonymous said...

I was aware of Feral Tribune, it's a paper reminiscent of the best 'underground press' in the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s, unfortunately it's a subscription site online, and not easy to get on my side of the mountains. So I don't often get to see it. SD is free online and I read it regularly, it definately is not the paper it once was, better than a lot of other regional papers but yes a definate outlet for the government.

Anonymous said...

This is the second day of Ramadan.

And I know Shaina loves cute kids.

Here is a photo of a cute Muslim child in Bosnia:


They are giving their respect to the killed, that's what they do on 2nd day of Ramadan.

Bg anon said...

Feral has stood out from the rest of the Croatian media - always questioning the official view.

It was amongst the first newspapers to write of Croatian military activities in Bosnia. Its only relatively recently become politically 'mainstream' in Croatia to unreservedly condemn Tudjmans policy on Bosnia.

They also have a great 'shits of the week' section that quotes politicians and their ridiculous or downright racist statements.

Simply put Tudjman could not risk closing Feral down. Feral also received funding from international donors and had friends abroad. Tudjman was already under pressure, criticised by human rights groups and some Western nation states. Think that closing Feral down would have pushed the situation too far.

Remember too that much of the time Milosevic allowed B92 to broadcast (since they were only in Belgrade). Circumstances were a little different but I suspect that Feral wasnt available on every newstand in Croatia. Tudjman also probably thought that Feral served an isolated audience which could not have much of a political impact on him.

Anonymous said...

Sorry but is the R in Tudjman intentional or what?

Shaina said...

sorry-about the extra "r" in Tudjman, just misprint.

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