Wednesday, 2 March 2022

Remembering Marija Juric Zagorka, Trailblazing Author and Croatia’s First Female Journalist

March 2nd, 2022 - A tribute to a great woman who persevered in the face of all challenges life had thrown her way

Known as one of the most popular Croatian writers, Marija Jurić 'Zagorka' was born on this day in 1873. She was an ardent patriot, a pioneer feminist, an accomplished political journalist and a prolific fiction writer, who sadly didn’t live to see her work receive critical acclaim. Her life story, marked by adversity and isolation, reads like a novel in itself: who was this great woman?

Marija Jurić was born into a family she would later describe as wealthy, but miserable. She was educated by private tutors from an early age, as her father managed the estate of Baron Geza Rauch who saw to it that the girl studied alongside his own children. After she finished elementary school in Varaždin as a bright pupil who shower great promise, Baron Rauch offered to pay for her to continue her education in Switzerland. Her father was in favour of the idea, but her mother objected and Jurić ended up going to an all-girls secondary school in Zagreb.

Instead of being allowed to pursue her interest in journalism and nurture her apparent writing talent, the girl was forced into an arranged marriage. At the age of 18, and again at the insistence of her mother, Jurić married a Slovak-Hungarian officer Andrija Matray who was 17 years her senior.


They moved to Hungary, and the marriage unsurprisingly turned out to be an unhappy one. As a fervent nationalist, Matray wouldn’t allow her to write unless she agreed to adopt a pro-Hungarian stance, a prospect unacceptable to Jurić who on her part was extremely devoted to her home country. He was also abusive enough to cause the young woman to suffer a mental breakdown during the three years they lived together. Later on, she’d flee back to Croatia and legally divorce Matray, but as her mother testified against her in court - mother of the year, that one - she ended up not getting alimony from Matraja nor her personal belongings back.

This was a turning point for Jurić, who then decided to break all ties with her family, settled in Zagreb and went to pursue a career in journalism. Quite a bold move for a woman at the end of the 19th century, and her choice to live a life outside of the wife-and-mother narrative was taken by some as a sign that she was mentally unstable.

At the age of 23, she started working for the newspaper Obzor (Horizon), where the board of directors at first only assigned her proofreading work because she was a woman. Later on, at the insistence of bishop Josip Juraj Strossmayer, she was given journalist assignments, but had to work in a separate room, isolated from the rest of the staff.

She powered on, starting as a writer who wasn’t allowed to sign her pieces to eventually grow into a reputable journalist who reported on all major political events in Croatia and the region. She also stood in as the editor in chief of Obzor for five months during which the former editor and his deputy were imprisoned. As she later organised demonstrations against the ban Khuen-Héderváry who was carrying out an oppressive magyarization of Croatia at the time, Marija was imprisoned as well and served ten days in solitary confinement.


In her career as a journalist, she wrote for numerous papers and journals, but also started a few of her own: Zabavnik in 1917, Ženski list (Women’s Paper) in 1925, and Hrvatica (Croatian Woman) in 1939. As a feminist and a relentless advocate for women’s rights, she covered the subject extensively as a journalist and gave public lectures all over the region, eliciting contempt and ridicule from her predominantly male colleagues.

All the while, she wrote fiction as well. Encouraged by bishop Strossmayer, she wrote her first novel in her 30s, going on to publish two dozen novels and several plays.

Written under the pen name Zagorka, her work is best described as historical fiction with elements of romance, adventure and mystery. A master of narrative, she was an extremely prolific author, largely inspired by Croatian history which is reflected in her most popular novels: Daughter of the Lotrščak, The Flaming Inquisitors, the 7-volume saga The Witch of Grič, and above all Gordana, the longest novel in the history of Croatian literature, totaling nearly 9000 pages in twelve volumes.

The readers didn’t mind the intimidating page count; on the contrary, Zagorka’s work was immensely popular in her time and always well received by her readership. Perhaps that’s why the critics couldn’t stand her: she was constantly put down by her contemporaries, singled out and ridiculed for being an author of 'trivial pulp literature'.

Sadly, the tide only turned after her death in 1957. Her work in journalism was the first to receive acclaim in the 60s, followed by valorisation of her fiction in the 80s.

1024px-Memorijalni_stan_Marije_Jurić_Zagorke_-_Zagreb.jpgMemorial Apartment of Marija Jurić Zagorka

Nowadays, Zagorka is known as one of the most popular Croatian writers of all time, and her legacy is held in high regard. The apartment she lived in was purchased by the City of Zagreb and turned into the Memorial Apartment of Marija Jurić Zagorka, run by the NGO Centre for Women's Studies Zagreb.

The Centre organises an annual event named Days of Marija Jurić Zagorka, and the Croatian Journalists' Association’s award for excellence in journalism bears her name as well.

768px-Kip_Marije_Jurić_Zagorke_u_Zagrebu.jpgMonument to Marija Juric Zagorka in Zagreb

In 1995, renowned Croatian writer Pavao Pavličić published a work entitled Hand-kiss: Letters to Famous Women. In it, he speaks of the lack of full-blooded narratives in Croatian fiction at the time, a lack of authors who could grab and hold the reader’s attention like Zagorka was able to do.

Perhaps the most poignant statement about the magnitude of Zagorka’s legacy comes from Pavličić, as he addresses her directly:

You were ahead of your time, and perhaps this would finally be the right time for you, as we are only now aware how much we need that which you could have given us.

Monday, 4 May 2020

HND: Ban on Appearance of SNH Leader Proves Censorship at HRT

ZAGREB, May 4, 2020 - The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) said on Sunday that the decision by the public television broadcaster to ban the leader of the Croatian Journalists' Union (SNH) from appearing in its popular Sunday talk show was confirmation of censorship at the HRT.

"The Croatian Journalists' Association strongly condemns the censorship move by the management of Croatian Radio and Television to ban the editor of 'Nedjeljom u 2' (Sundays at 2 o'Clock), Aleksandar Stanković, from hosting Maja Sever, an HRT journalist and president of the Croatian Journalists' Union, on his show on the World Press Freedom Day," the HND said in a statement,

The guest of Sunday's show was an independent member of Parliament, Marko Vučetić, who said that he had been invited instead of SNH leader Maja Sever, to which the show's host Aleksandar Stanković remarked that this was his own professional defeat and the defeat of the HRT.

"The fact that Maja Sever is not the guest on today's show is my professional defeat and I would also say the defeat of the organisation I work for. She was invited at the president of the Croatian Journalists' Union who last week discussed with the President of Croatia and the Minister of Culture the problem of freelance journalists in the present time of crisis and how to save them. I wasn't given the green light to host her. She was also invited as the recent recipient of the Pride of Croatia Award. The explanation was that she works here, with this show, and that it is not possible. I will persist in inviting her to this show because I believe that she should be a guest," Stankovic said.

The HND said that this showed what the situation was like at the HRT where "freedom of speech has been restricted for a while now."

"The fact that Sever is also an HRT employee would be an honour to any well-regulated and free system, let alone one that is mostly funded by taxpayers' money, rather than an excuse for censorship," the HND said, recalling that Sever's popular programme "Croatia Live" was taken off the air without any explanation a few years ago.

The HND called on the "free-thinking public and everyone concerned to join us in efforts to free the HRT of the shackles of politics and interest groups so that it becomes an independent public service. The fee-paying citizens are entitled to that."

The HND said it continued to support the demand made at a large protest rally by journalists last year that the current HRT management should be replaced.

More news about the status of journalists can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Culture Ministry: Media Freedom Is Foundation of Every Democracy

ZAGREB, May 3, 2020 - On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, observed on 3 May, Croatia's culture ministry underscored the importance of freedom of media as a pillar of each democratic society which is supposed to provide conditions for unobstructed and safe work of journalists.

This year, World Press Freedom Day, is marked in specific circumstances in which we evaluate in a particular way the role of media in the society, the ministry said in a press release on Sunday.

Accurate, true and timely reporting in accordance with the media freedoms in times of crisis represents a pillar for each individual and for the whole society, the ministry said.

Without the role of independent and free media in checking the information and without trust which the general public has in the media system, one cannot imagine the prevention of dissemination of fake news and disinformation in the world full of easy to access information, the source of which is unknown, said the ministry.

Unfortunately, media outlets are hard hit by the consequences of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and therefore the ministry will undertake additional measures to provide support to reporters, and publishers.

The ministry recalls on its web site that on 17 March, Croatia's government adopted a series of measures to assist the cultural sector in order to minimise the adverse effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are aware that the crisis has affected all levels of society – economic as cultural, public as private, so by various measures we try to cover all segments of the cultural sector, emphasizing above all the spirit of solidarity and community as the foundation of a just and democratic society," Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek was quoted as saying.

"The measures are intended to cover all artists and cultural workers who, in these moments of crisis which full reach is difficult to predict, lose their ability to act, and whose social and economic status is fundamentally threatened. We want to ease the devastating effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but also the recent earthquake that has additionally threatened the cultural and artistic field, one of the most vulnerable segments of the society,” said the minister.

More journalism news can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

SNH Calls on Journalists to Join "Five Minutes of Roaring Silence" Campaign

ZAGREB, May 3, 2020 - Ahead of the International Press Freedom Day, observed on May 3, the Croatian Journalists' Union (SNH) has called on its members to join the traditional campaign "Five Minutes of Roaring Silence" to draw attention to the importance of journalists and the media and to their worsening position.

In a statement on Saturday, the SNH highlighted the importance of workers' rights as prerequisites for freedom of the press. It said that the Labour Act was not respected in Croatia, that media workers were working without collective agreements and that employers were taking advantage of the lack of organisation to impose inappropriate working conditions and inadequate pay.

"We have brought the attention of the employers and the crisis management authorities to non-compliance with the Safety at Work Act because the employers did not provide the necessary protective equipment for our colleagues who report from the field risking their health, but we have also shown solidarity through the SNH by purchasing and distributing protective gear," the SNH said.

It said that media workers in several organisations had had their pay cut, in some cases without social dialogue. It cited a survey conducted by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) showing that nearly a third of freelance journalists had lost their jobs and only 15 percent of them had managed to keep their jobs.

More news about journalism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Saturday, 2 May 2020

905 Lawsuits Against Journalists and Media Outlets Active in Croatia

ZAGREB, May 2, 2020 - There are currently 905 active lawsuits against journalists and media outlets in Croatia, with plaintiffs seeking nearly HRK 68 million, the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) said on Friday, presenting the findings of a survey conducted among the media at the beginning of the year.

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, observed on May 3, the HND again warned about the problem of legal actions, the aim of which, it says, was to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with legal proceedings, which the HND considers a serious and dangerous mechanism that is threatening the freedom of the media.

"Although 905 lawsuits against journalists and media outlets is fewer than last year, the number shows that the judicial prosecution of media outlets and journalists in Croatia is still present. It should be noted that the actual number is higher since we received data from only 18 media outlets," HND president Hrvoje Zovko underscored.

The HND wants to warn the domestic and international public that lawsuits are most often a means of intimidating journalists and media outlets so that they would give up on serious investigative stories, Zovko said, adding that with high claims for damages plaintiffs seek to destroy journalists and media outlets financially.

The HND underscored that of the 23 media outlets who had been covered by the survey, there were 18 who had lawsuits against them for the violation of honour and reputation in their articles.

According to the HND's survey, the HANZA media company, the publisher of Jutarnji List daily, Slobodna Dalmacija daily and Sportske Novosti sports daily, is faced with most lawsuits, 502, averaging HRK 100,000. It is followed by Styria, the publisher of Večernji List daily and 24 Sata daily, with 107 lawsuits averaging about HRK 156,000 in damages.

Of the total of 905 lawsuits, 861 defamation actions taken against media outlets, their editor and journalists for articles and features, and currently there are 44 criminal lawsuits.

More news on media freedoms can be found in the Politics section.

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Milanović Endorses Proposals for Helping Journalists and Media

ZAGREB, April 23, 2020) - Croatian President Zoran Milanović on Thursday met with Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) president Hrvoje Zovko and the leader of the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists, Maja Sever, who informed him of their proposals for helping media outlets affected by the coronavirus crisis.

"President Milanovic supported the efforts of the HND and the SNH to help journalists and the media. He believes that it is important to protect and promote the autonomy of the media, especially in crisis situations," the Office of the President emphasised.

The HND and the SNH propose that the government adopt special measures for journalists and the media as they have not been covered by existing measures.

As key measures, they point to the establishment of an emergency fund to help journalists from non-profit and local media outlets, as well as freelance journalists, photo journalists, cameramen and other media workers. The fund would be managed by the Agency for Electronic Media.

They propose that media employees be protected by making state aid to publishers conditional on their not laying off employees or cutting their wages.

They also propose that the state give financial help to freelancers and that local media outlets too be eligible for government benefits.

More news about journalism can be found in the Politics section.

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

Minister Says Number of Measures Adopted to Help Media Sector

ZAGREB, April 22, 2020 - Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Koržinek has said that a set of measures has been adopted in light of the current difficult situation in the media sector, and that media outlets and registered freelance reporters and artists were eligible for benefits offered by the employment service.

"The Electronic Media Council has made decisions on payments from the fund, agreement has been reached with the Music Copyright Society (ZAMP) regarding certain omissions connected with copyright royalties, and we have been in talks with Transmitters and Communications Ltd. on making certain concessions to commercial media," the minister said in an interview with Nova TV on Tuesday evening.

She said that she would meet with journalists' representatives Hrvoje Zovko and Maja Sever on Wednesday. "We have to be realistic and aware that the economic situation is serious and that unfortunately cuts will have to be made in many areas," she said.

"We appreciate the role of the media, we know how important they are, notably in the current situation, when they contribute to the fight against fake news, which is why we are turning to credible sources and serious mainstream media and we will do what we can with the measures to be taken next."

Obuljen Koržinek said that talks were under way on how to gradually start relaxing restrictions imposed due to the coronavirus epidemic but that in the field of culture, it was difficult to estimate how and when those restrictions would be lifted.

As for the project Rijeka - The European Capital of Culture 2020, the minister said that it was not a failed project, that she had discussed a number of scenarios with the mayor of Rijeka and the project manager and that decisions regarding the project would be made in line with government decisions to make sure at least some of its programme was implemented.

"It will not be possible to implement it in its current scope but culture must go on, both in good and in bad times, and the current situation is difficult, especially for performing arts," she said.

More media news can be found in the Lifestyle section.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Only 15% of Freelancers in Croatian Media Sector Have Kept Jobs

ZAGREB, April 14, 2020 - One third of freelancers in the Croatian media sector have lost all their jobs since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, 26% have lost most of their jobs, and only 15% have kept their jobs, according to a survey by the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) and the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists (SNH).

"Two-thirds of the freelancers polled have lost all, most or half of their jobs since the beginning of the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is alarming that almost a third of them have been left with no income at all. Only 14% of the respondents have managed to keep most of their jobs," the HND and SNH said in a press release.

Only a small group of freelancers in the media sector (15%) have managed to keep all of their previous business engagements.

The survey was conducted on a sample of 164 freelancers. A vast majority of the respondents cited journalism as the only and primary source of income. HND president Hrvoje Zovko pointed out that the survey results confirmed the importance of protecting those who feel the impact of the crisis first.

"We think that the government should agree to the demands made by the HND and SNH, which, among other things, aim to ensure measures for the protection of freelancers in the media sector," he emphasised.

SNH leader Maja Sever noted that journalists felt the impact of the crisis in less than a month from its start.

"We might not have been loud enough in warning that journalism needed help and that we needed job-saving measures, but only because we were busy. During this crisis, journalists have shown what an important role they play in our society. By providing citizens with timely and truthful information, they help the public receive important information on time, and accurate information can save lives today," Sever said.

More news about journalism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Monday, 13 April 2020

HND Asks State Leaders to Condemn Attacks on Journalists in Split

ZAGREB, April 13, 2020 - The Croatian Journalists Association (HND) said on Sunday it was shocked by this morning's attacks outside a church on Dalmatinski Portal journalist Živana Šušak Živković and N1 camerawoman Ivana Sivro, asking that the state leadership clearly condemn them.

The attacks occurred at about the same time, first on Šušak Živković, who was recording a gathering of believers at a church in a Split suburb, the HND said in a press release.

After she was roughly pushed away, which is clearly visible in a video, the mobile phone on which she was live streaming the gathering was destroyed, then her arm was pinned with the church door, for which she had to seek medical assistance and report the case to the police, the HND said.

Shortly thereafter, Sivro was attacked outside the same church and this too was recorded, the HND said, adding that a video shows a man in a car rushing towards the woman, slowing down and hitting her camera with his hand.

The HND noted that prior to the incidents the church priest, Josip Delaš, insulted the journalists and that according to witnesses, the crowd hurled insults at the two women as well.

The HND asked why the police were not there and why the law did not apply to all, saying it was difficult to believe that the police did not know that Easter Mass would be held in that church despite a ban because of COVID-19.

The HND said that although the attackers were arrested, Interior Minister Davor Božinović condemned the attack and the Split-Dalmatia Archdiocese distanced itself from Delaš, that was not enough.

The conduct of the Church in recent days was irresponsible and top state officials are keeping silent about attacks on journalists, the HND said, adding that this was the third attack on women journalists in Split recently.

In Croatia, which is chairing the EU, there is evidently a hunt on journalists and a lynching atmosphere in which journalists are to blame for everything, the press release said.

In recent years such messages have come also from the highest Church dignitaries and state officials, which is unacceptable, so the HND demands that the state leadership clearly condemn the latest attacks, the press release said, adding that the HND would notify its foreign partners.

More news about journalism in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

Sunday, 12 April 2020

Interior Minister Slams Attack on Journalist in Split Church

ZAGREB, April 12, 2020 - The head of the national civil protection authority, Interior Minister Davor Božinović, on Sunday condemned in the strongest terms today's assault on a journalist in a church in a Split suburb who, he said, was attacked only for doing her job.

"The reporter was assaulted in a church on the biggest Christian holiday only because she was trying to do her job," he said at a press conference, adding that the police were taking action.

He said that according to reports from local news websites, about 20 believers gathered in the church in Sirobuje despite a ban on such gatherings for epidemiological reasons and that local authorities were notified.

According to those reports, the journalist was pushed away, her mobile phone, on which she was streaming the gathering, was taken and her arm was pinned with the church door.

Božinović said police had also begun a criminal investigation into two men arrested for assaulting and injuring the journalist. They were arrested for using force against a person doing a job of public interest and for damaging another person's item, he added.

The minister said the situation after a previous gathering in the church in question had calmed down and that the police did not know that another Mass would be celebrated at 10 a.m. today.

He said he had asked the head of the Split-Dalmatia County civil protection authority to prevent more gatherings there, and that the police would do their job about today's incident.

Believers started gathering at the church in question also on Palm Sunday but dispersed after the police asked them to return home.

The Sirobuje parish priest, Josip Delaš, told Hina on that occasion that he had asked the faithful to come to Mass because he felt that they could stand two metres apart from each other, as ordered by the national civil protection authority.

The Split-Dalmatia Archdiocese today apologised for the behaviour of Delaš who, despite the ban, celebrated Easter Mass, and distanced itself from his statements and views.

It said in a press release that the attack on the journalist did not contribute to a Christian celebration of Easter and apologised to "everyone who was shocked by Father Josip's conduct."

The journalist who was attacked was Živana Šušak Živković of the Dalmatinski Portal website. An unidentified person hit her on the arm, causing her to drop the mobile on which she was recording Mass. A little over ten believers were in the church and stood apart.

According to journalists who were there, the person who hit Šušak Zivkovic and Delaš hurled insults at them.

Celebrating Mass on Palm Sunday despite the ban on religious gatherings because of COVID-19, Delaš verbally attacked and cursed a police officer in plainclothes, for which he was charged with a misdemeanour.

More news about the Catholic Church in Croatia can be found in the Politics section.

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