Matija Babic on the Origins of, 20 Years On

By 21 February 2022

February 23, 2022 - It is almost 20 years since the founding of Croatia's leading (and independent) media, Founder and owner Matija Babic reflects on the journey. 

Getting sued by the Croatian National Tourist Board, not once, but twice (and then finding out I was the only blogger/journalist they sued in the whole of 2020) has been a totally cool experience so far. And we still have about 20 years to go. 

You can keep up with the very entertaining shenanigans on the TCN Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit feature. But it is the stuff that goes on behind the scenes, that you can't blog about (but maybe I will one day) that has made this a fascinating experience. As well as finding out who my true friends are, and those who fade at the sign of the first discomfort. 

And the experience has made me appreciate what remains of the independent Croatian media even more (and I have learned a LOT about that in recent months). And my respect for those who fight the system has grown as a result. 

I get a lot of criticism for supporting and my friendship (I wouldn't say that we are close but I enjoy our chats over lunch a couple of times a year) with Index owner Matija Babic, and that is ok. The thing is, though, that I am more than comfortable with all the abuse I get from the haters these days (it makes me a little horny in truth), but I also remember those who helped me when I was in trouble. I was terrified when Mayor of Jelsa Niksa Peronja announced in a public meeting that he was suing me (rumour was for 200,000 kuna), quite for what I never found out. For after the theatrical announcement, which you can see above, the summons never came. Young Babic kindly offered me the services of his lawyer, Legendica Extraordinaire, Vanja Juric - a close friend today and someone who I enjoy having pints with after our hearings in court with the national tourist board. At least when their lawyer hasn't double booked and actually turns up. 

I didn't realise that 2022 will be the 20th anniversary of Index, and I had never heard the story of how it started. Here is a translation of Matija's post on Facebook, translated in full, on how it all started. 

Thank you for what you do. 


After my father died, his fellow warehousemen from Dalekovod raised money to help my family out. My mum decided to spend that seven thousand kuna on my very first PC. A few months later, in April 1999, as a 21-year-old motivated by Feral and the fight against HDZ and Tudjman's Croatia, I launched a couple of political sites: VlastNet, IzboriNet and VijestiNet.

Immediately after doing that, I created and ran the portal for the first Croatian internet provider Globalnet, but as Globalnet soon decided that it didn't want to pay us anymore (it was about 20 thousand kuna per month), I decided to launch my very own news portal.

Sometime around this time back in 2002, I started coming up with a hell of a plan for what was going to become Index, and nobody thought it would even make it to the end of the year. At the Nocturno pizzeria I opted for the name Index, people commented that the name wasn't very good because it sounded kind of student-like. We knew that Globalnet wouldn't let us go just like that. We'd been busy preparing the Index for months, and on the day we left Globalnet, almost everyone saw only an advertisement for the new Index portal on the website. Almost everybody! If you had an IP address of Globalnet, then you'd have seen the most normal portal. So, it took the team from the provider half a day to understand that we'd actually left and that now everyone knew that we're going to something called

For the next couple of months we were still working on Index, we bought tables from Emmezeta on my mum’s bank card and brought computers from home, and on December the 2nd, we kicked off.

Andreja Hudika (editor), Gordan Novoselec (programming), Neven Barković (music), Vlado Bulić (Pušiona column), Aleksandar Mlinarić (sales), Miljenko Nikolić (author of the term Breaking News/Prijelomna vijest) and me (design, manager, editor, editorial office, commentator). 200,000 kuna was needed to pay off the start-up costs and a few minimums for a year was invested in Index by Ivan Matić (the founder of Globalnet, who had also been deceived by them, too). Globalnet collapsed soon after that. I'd like to send my greetings to Tomislav Mileis, the first man I remember trying to steal and destroy us as a couple of enthusiastic kids. And he failed in doing so.

Marko Rakar then had a printing house and agreed to "compensate" for the printing of various promotional products in exchange for advertising on a (still) non-existent portal.

We worked 24/7, we were most looking forward to weekends and feasts on breaded hake with potato salad on Trešnjevka. I remember how little money we had from the situation when I wanted to make carbonara, but I didn't have enough money for the ham, so I came up with some form of "carbonara" using just cheese. I'm not writing this to be all ''woe is me'' but I remember all of this with sadness, it was a wonderful and innocent time, we were all young and money was the last concern on our minds, as long as we had enough to keep pushing Index.

The apartment in Trešnjevka, which acted as a newsroom, fortunately had a bedroom, where I mostly slept for the next year, so Index had news at night as well.

To act as a newsroom with two people, I invented a script that pulled news from the agency in real time and automatically distributed and ranked the news on the front page and in columns by the ratio of publication time and readership. People thought there were at least ten of us doing all of that. In order to survive financially without cooperation with politics, the mafia and tycoons, we paid people illegally, through student contracts. Some of our greatest discoveries of corruption were written by journalists from other media, who weren't allowed to publish what they'd found on their own portals. I also paid them illegally, and I'm proud of that.

It was a time when everyone paid for everything ''under the table'' but that's the case in brutally corrupt countries: they create laws that no one can obey and still manage to survive, and for friends... what's needed is created, while for enemies, it's the law.

I was constantly performing stunts and coming up with explosive stories and projects so that I'd be constantly in the newspapers without needing to fork out a single kuna for advertising, and I'd be a guest of all live shows. I gave up TV appearances 10 years ago because acting like an arrogant, smug tattooed character was causing me too much stress. And there was less and less acting, I'd started becoming the character I'd invented for TV more and more.

These and many other legal and a few less legal tricks are the reasons why Index, as it is, indebted to nobody, still exists today.

Many times they tried to extinguish and destroy us (and they, starting with Linić and Šegon and their minions - you guessed it - ended up humiliated and forgotten by the world, but not by me, I'll still be seeing more of them), many times they crossed us, some of my closest associates left me more often than that, thinking that we were doomed to fail. Eventually it gets to the point where it doesn't even disappoint you anymore. That said, Index is now the most financially successful portal in all of Croatia.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of this endeavor, where we became the strongest Croatian media portal out of an impossible situation, not from scratch but from less than zero, to more than a million readers a day. To all who have harmed us or tried to destroy us I have returned or plan to return the favour at least threefold. Everyone except Severina, I forgave her because I consider her a great person, I hope she finally understands that Index wasn't guilty of anything.

To all who helped us I have given back to or plan to give back to you at least five times over. I have a couple of months to figure out how we’re going to mark this anniversary. Thank you for being with us for these 20 years.