Culture Minister Hasanbegović Sues Writer and Journalist Ante Tomić

By 6 July 2016

Preliminary hearing was adjourned and will continue in November.

On Wednesday morning, at the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb a preliminary hearing was held concerning a lawsuit of Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegović against journalist and writer Ante Tomić for an article published in the Serbian NIN weekly, reports Večernji List on July 6, 2016.

In the article, Tomić called Hasanbegović a “retard”, “impossible being”, “political minotaur”, “ideological unicorn”, “Ustasha clown”, “dumb Zagreb Muslim” and “miserable person”. Hasanbegović is seeking 30,000 kuna from Tomić for psychological suffering.

Arriving to the Court, Tomić was greeted by members of the initiative Freedom to the Third Ones with banners and messages: “Do Not Touch Him” and “Audience against Censorship”. While Tomić appeared in court, Hasanbegović did not come, and his lawyer Trpimir Jonjić proposed a series of new pieces of evidence, including expert opinion of the Croatian Institute of History which should determine whether the plaintiff in his works and attitudes advocates totalitarian views and incites to violence. In addition, he proposed five witnesses, including Ivo Banac, Ivo Goldstein and three historians from the Institute.

Tomić's lawyer Vesna Alaburić said they were not opposed to proposed evidence, but believed that scientific opinion was unnecessary because it was not the subject of the proceedings. “This is about who is a minister in the government and what he is advocating, and it is about the right of a Croatian citizen, a journalist or of any other profession, to comment publicly on the activities of a government official”, said Alaburić.

Jonjić said that the Minister was absolutely committed to media freedom, but believed that they have their limitations in the rights and freedoms of others, including him.

Tomić made a statement to the media after the hearing. “I do not see why we would deal with historical subjects because in this article I did not deal with them. It was essentially a rather moderate and mild article; I wrote it at the beginning of the term of the former government when we have not even known much about Zlatko Hasanbegović. Now, after six months of his thankfully short term, I would probably be sharper in my criticism”, said Tomić.

The preliminary hearing was adjourned until November, because the plaintiff today presented a series of proposals to which the other side has to state its opinion, which means that the trial will likely be held next year.

Tomić added that he wrote the article because it was strange to him how a Muslim could join right-wingers who are mostly Islamophobes.

In April this year, Tomić was attacked in Spit, and the Culture Ministry caused controversy with a statement in which it appeared to blame Tomić for the attack.