Thursday, 24 November 2022

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Key Witness Shares Thoughts on LinkedIn

November 24, 2022 - Last week's hearing in the ongoing lawsuits against TCN CEO Paul Bradbury from the Croatian National Tourist Board included two witness cross-examinations. One shared his thoughts about the experience on LinkedIn.  

The first comment I saw on a thread about the trial from Zoran Pejovic was 'Kafkaesque.'

Zoran and I have known each other for a decade and he is what I consider to be one of the true tourism visionaries in this country, particularly in the luxury tourism sector. It was no surprise that he also appeared in the article in the Croatian media which led to me getting the first lawsuit of my life. Even though I didn't write the article, don't own the portal which published it, there was no request for a retraction, and the article is still live in its original format. You can read it (with Google Translate) here.

Zoran wasn't sued for his comments in the article (indeed, it turns out that the only journalist/blogger that the Croatian National Tourist Board sued in 2020 was me - twice), but he was called as a witness. And so he got up at 04:00 to take the first flight from Split to Zagreb, flying back immediately after the hearing. Another waste of time and resources in this 2.5 year saga. 

Zoran was excellent during his first-ever appearance on the witness stand, and he took to LinkedIn to share his thoughts once back in Split. 

You can read his post in full below, but for those less familiar with the case, you can read the latest instalment of the saga and a look at last week's heaing in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Irish Newspapers & Belgian Radio.

You can read the full official transcript of last week's hearring here

Over to Zoran:

The curious (court) case of Paul Bradbury

It was early June 2020. My phone rang and the voice on the other side of the line introduced herself as a journalist for Index.hr, Croatia's leading online news portal. She said that she was writing an article on the preparedness of Croatia for the summer tourism season and asked if I would comment on the perception of Croatia in the international travel trade and travel media, given the uncertainties we were facing in those early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Long story short, I had shared my take on the situation that the international travel trade and travel media did not have clarity and understanding of Croatia's Covid rules and border restrictions and that the national tourist board was failing to communicate news and updates clearly.

The article was published on June 12, 2020, and I didn't make much of that, other than finding out that the other contributor to the article was Paul Bradbury, award-winning journalist, and owner of Total Croatia News.

This entire story would have been quickly confined to the forgotten corners of the internet if it was not for a call I received about a year later from Paul Bradbury informing me that he is being sued by Croatian National Tourist Board for the thoughts he expressed in the article we have both contributed to. I was baffled beyond belief. He inquired if I was being sued as well. I wasn't.

Fast forward to today. This morning I took an early morning flight to Zagreb where I was summoned by the court as the witness in the case of Croatian National Tourist Board vs Paul Bradbury. Zagreb was foggy and wet, and the chilling morning breeze was only adding to the slightly unnerving feeling one gets when faced with a court proceeding that could be described only as Kafkaesque. I took the stand and recollected the days of early Covid for the court.

There was not much new to be sad about those days, but as I was standing there I came to a personal realization. Ever since I learned of the case against Paul I have reduced my Croatian media appearances. Several times I was asked to comment on some of the ongoing challenges of Croatian tourism and I politely declined. It only today dawned on me that I chose the path of lesser exposure to stay out of the limelight and avoid similar litigations, regardless of how pointless and ultimately unsuccessful they tend to be.

Perhaps they never aimed for victory in court.

You can follow Zoran Pejovic on LinkedIn.

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You can follow the latest in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, including Judgment Day on January 13, 2023 in the dedicated TCN section.

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Tuesday, 22 November 2022

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Full Transcript of November 17 Hearing

Novmeber 23, 2022 - The full transcript of last week's court case between the Croatian National Tourist Board and TCN CEO Paul Bradbury.

There is a small, but growing trend in my LinkedIn inbox - messages from lawyers, international lawyers. No, I am not in trouble again, but it seems that my ongoing lawsuits with the Croatian National Tourist Board, which I am documenting in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, are being followed by international legal entities, who are finding the whole process rather fascinating.  Here is one such email from a couple of days ago:

  • Hello. As a lawyer working for the Council of Europe, I enjoy following your coverage of your court case.

You can read the latest report on last week's court appearance in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Irish Newspapers and Belgian Radio, but below please find the whole transcript of the hearing, ably translated by Lauren Simmonds. 

Business number: 64 Pn-2010/20-22 - The minutes from 17.11.2022 during the main hearing held at the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb

Those present from the court: Ela Misura Stopfer (judge), Renata Loncar (minute taker)

Plaintiff: Croatian National Tourist Board (HTZ/CNTB)

Defendant: Paul David Raymond Bradbury

Subject at hand: Damages

The judge starts the main discussion at 09:00 and announces the subject of the discussion.
The discussion is public.

It has been established that the following are present:
For the plaintiff: Zoran Vukic, lawyer (with power of attorney)
For the defendant: Vanja Juric, lawyer (with power of attorney)

It has been established that witnesses Kresimir Macan, the identity of whom was determined by inspection of his ID card, and Zoran Pejovic, the identity of whom was determined by inspection of his residence permit were present.

It has been noted that Dora Nikolla also joined as a court interpreter, who submitted a copy of the decision on their appointment to the file, and submitted the original for inspection.

The plaintiff presents as in the lawsuit, they stand by their [previous] claim and all previous allegations.

The defendant stands by their answer to the lawsuit and all previous allegations.

The court is set to determine: A solution

Evidence will be presented by hearing [the testimonies of the] witnesses who have appeared.

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Witness: Kresimir Macan

My profession involves communications in general, and I have been known to forward information related to tourism to the defendant. I have read the article in question and I remember it as well as I possibly could with regard to the passage of time [since then]. This is the period in which Croatia suddenly opened up to tourism after the coronavirus [pandemic]. They did not want to communicate this clearly, I guess it was because of Croatia then holding the [rotating] presidency of the European Union (EU). However, word got out and people started making inquiries. It is true that at that time, tourism in the Republic of Croatia was advertised to certain, but not all, markets, and that the focus was on destinations to which people could travel by car/road. The defendant criticised the above, considering that some other markets could have also been taken into account, which I consider to be logical. It is also true that there were signs in the Irish media that citizens of that country could not come to the Republic of Croatia, and in general there were quite a lot of confusing publications in foreign media. I believe that the confusion occurred due to the time lag between the moment when we (Croatia) opened up to tourism and the moment when the CNTB started to communicate this to the outside world.

To answer the question put forth by the lawyer of the plaintiff, I state that the CNTB announced that it was carrying out targeted activities towards these markets, and if it had communicated regularly, I would not be testifying here today. During that period, I was involved with the [topic of] coronavirus, and at that time I was not yet involved with tourism.

When asked whether I knew that on June the 12th, 2020 the CNTB's campaign was already underway, I state that I do not know. I know that such publications could be found in the Irish media, but now I don't remember exactly which media it was, everything is on the portal. There were more [such] publications, but I don't remember the exact number.

In response to the question of whether the CNTB commented on such publications in foreign media, I state that the defendant corrected all these statements since he was receiving questions and providing answers to them, and the CNTB was not doing its job proactively at that time. I know this fact because I personally received inquiries and Paul told me that he [also] received a lot of inquiries on this topic, even though I was involved with coronavirus at that time, I also started becoming involved with tourism when Croatia started losing money.

From the 19th of May, 2020, you could not get any information from the CNTB, the only information [available] was provided by the Ministry of the Interior (MUP) and the defendant. I have known the defendant for ten years. I sometimes have business cooperation with him. I do not know whether or not the defendant would offer commercial business cooperation in 2020 to the plaintiff. At that time, I did not offer the plaintiff any business cooperation, but the plaintiff falsely accused us and spread gossip that we had indeed asked for it (in reference to business cooperations).

I do not know whether the defendant had any business cooperation with the plaintiff before that. Foreign tourists addressed the defendant with questions because he was the main source of information in English, he systematically published information about the conditions of arrival and stay in the Republic of Croatia during the pandemic and, as a private entrepreneur, he was more rapid in terms of communication. I don't know what the share of Irish and English tourists is in the Croatian market. I don't know how they got here, I know that they came to Dubrovnik by plane. Nobody was flying then because of coronavirus.

In response to the question put forth by the defandant's lawyer, I state to the that there was no Viber (platform) community for tourism at that time, while there was such a community related to information related to the coronavirus, and it was an official state one. Later, my agency did one at the request of Paul, who was getting a lot of inquiries and was no longer able to answer them all. This happened because no one, with the exception of MUP, responded to any inquiries via e-mail, and due to the large number of inquiries, we opened such a community, which was later visited by 220,000 people. We had to come up with our own material because there was no official material to use. That viber community was founded on Tuesday, May the 21st, 2020.

In response to the question put forth by the plaintiff's lawyer, I state that the Viber channel was offered to the Ministry of Tourism (CNTB) for free, it was not offered for sale, and it was offered to them because business had expanded so much that we could no longer do it all alone. We did not have a conversation with the CNTB about that Viber channel, the minister claimed he would get back to us.

I have nothing more to say, there are no more questions.

Witness: Zoran Pejovic

I know what is written in the article in question, my statements were also published in it, and I know what Paul stated and published in that article, and I believe that it is all correct. Namely, I was opening a hotel on Hvar at the time, and inquiries were constantly coming from tourists and journalists, because no one knew whether it was possible to come to Croatia or not, all because of the pandemic. I believe that it is very necessary to communicate this information to the public and to foreign tourists and travel agencies, because there was uncertainty. At that time, I cooperated with the defendant via his portal Total Croatia News in such a way that I wrote information, and he mostly corrected the incorrect publications coming out in foreign media. Namely, we wanted the tourism market in Croatia to continue despite the pandemic, and for it to remain in people's memory so that when the market opens, they have that (the Croatian) market in mind.

In response to the question put forth by the plaintiff's lawyer, I state that I have been working with the plaintiff for about 10 years, that is, we have known each other for that long. He certainly did not pay me for any business services, and it is possible that we did some promotion through social media. I don't know how many times it was published in foreign media that citizens of Ireland and Belgium were unable to travel to the Republic of Croatia. I don't know how many Irish and Belgian tourists came to the Republic of Croatia before 2020. I know that these are airline destinations. I don't know if there were flights from those countries to Croatia from April onwards in 2020. I don't know in what percentage the success of the Croatian tourist market was measured in during the 2020 [tourist] season in regards to its rank in comparison to other competitive tourist countries.

To the specific question of whether the defendant worked within the tourism sector, I state that he worked as a tourist journalist, which in my opinion is in the tourism sector. I don't know how long he has been writing about tourism. As far as I know, he has been writing about tourism for 10 years. I don't know how many followers he has.

In response to the question put forth by the plaintiff's lawyer, I state that my statements have been faithfully transmitted in the article in question. When I said that there is no organised work on promotion and that promotion should be done more strongly, I was referring to the fact that tourist boards in countries mostly engage in destination marketing in tourism. I didn't rely too much on the work of the tourist boards, but since in this situation the state was the one that passed certain bans (coronavirus restrictions), I was of the belief that the CNTB should have been the one to communicate it, which did not happen. The plaintiff did not file a lawsuit against me. They neither asked me to publish any corrections nor withdraw my statement.

In response to the question put forth by the plaintiff's lawyer, I state that the target markets for 2020 were Belgium and Ireland, but by the 13th of May 2020, Croatia could not be reached by plane from those countries, and I do not know exactly when the flights began running again. I don't know if it was possible to come to Croatia by car, I don't think it was possible to cross the border.

I have nothing more to say, there are no more questions.

Evidence will be presented by a hearing of the defendant - Defendant: Paul David Raymond Bradbury

The first case of coronavirus in Croatia appeared in March 2020, and my portal Total Croatia News had written about coronavirus two months before that. In March, we already had a map showcasing the possibilities of entering and travelling to Croatia, and since March we had daily reports with all the necessary information, and we were the first portal in Croatia that informed [people] about this information.

Even on the 7th of May, 2020, the Ministry of Tourism didn't have any information about the possibility of movement and the possibility of travelling to the Republic of Croatia, although all other countries already had such information [on offer to the public], Croatia was the only country in the world that did not have it. It was impossible to deliver information to foreign tourists, even on the website of the CNTB, one piece - and a weak piece at that - of information was published with reference to a Narodne Novine (Official Gazette) number.

I wrote an article about it and just two days after the publication of that article we had a lot more information about it being offered on the websites of the CNTB and the [Tourism] Ministry. During those two months of the absence of such information, everyone asked us for information, and my mailbox/inbox was full, and we were in charge of providing information to such an extent that CNN published my website on its list of links for obtaining information for each country. For other countries, the official websites for their tourist boards were linked.

On May the 13th, 2020, the Republic of Croatia opened up [its borders] a bit, but it was not yet known who could come here and how, and on May the 15th, 2020, Kresimir Macan called me and said we should go to the Croatian border and see the situation on the spot so that we could publish the information. Chaos greeted us at the border and we saw two Slovenian citizens who wanted to go to the Adriatic, but since they did not have a certificate of accommodation, their entry into Croatia was forbidden. At that time, we worked closely with MUP and apart from them, we were the only ones who knew what the situation was, so we decided to create a viber community where people who had crossed the border could share their experiences, and I published that information with the fact that only MUP was helping in providing information.

In view of all this, I also followed the publications by [various] European media, and one day I came across an article in the Irish Times entitled "The Irish can't go to the Republic of Croatia", which was not true. I wrote about it and sent an email to the editor of the Irish Times, and within an hour that title was removed and the article was corrected. In addition to that, a man from Belgium sent a similar article published in the Belgian media via the Viber group, which was then also corrected and changed.

Given that I managed to do it, and the CNTB, which has 70 employees, failed to do it, I believe that I have the right to have my opinion and the right to express it, and I did so. By the way, that Viber community won seven awards and people said that we were the ones doing the work of the CNTB, I did that work exclusively on a voluntary basis, and now the CNTB is the only one filing a lawsuit against me, which is something that is not clear to me.

Regarding the information that a campaign was published by the CNTB for seven markets for which Croatia is a destination that can be reached by car, I read that on June the 1st, 2020. That was published by the CNTB and I criticised it because I thought we should have included the market(s) of Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Switzerland.

In response to the question put forth by the lawyer of the plaintiff as to whether I have inspected the Irish media in printed form, in which it is written that Irish people could not enter the Republic of Croatia, I state that it is difficult for me to obtain printed media from Ireland.

In response to the question of whether or not I had any insight into Irish television or radio before the 12th of June, 2020, I state that the only way of monitoring foreign media that we deal with is online.

To the question of how many publications in the Irish media of that content I came across before June the 12th, 2020, I state that I have read a lot of them, and the publication that I remember is the one that ran in the Irish Times that I testified about. I can't say exactly how many Irish media published such articles, nor can I state the dates on which they were published, at that time I was working 18 hours a day and followed a lot of media, so I don't remember.

To the question of how long such information was being published in the Irish media, I answer that the information [of that kind] was brief in the Irish Times because I contacted them, and if I hadn't, it would probably have been there much longer. Specifically, I only contacted the Irish Times, while a Belgian citizen from the Viber community contacted the Belgian media. I personally saw the publication [in question] in the Belgian media, and that Belgian citizen sent the link to me. I don't know exactly which Belgian media it is, but if necessary I can go through my emails and find out. I assume it was shortly after the announcement in the Irish Times because I was writing about that announcement when I got the information about this one. The publication in the Belgian media was in French and I speak French. That Belgian citizen's name is Didier. That gentleman could have driven a car from Belgium to Hvar since he could not get a flight there. I don't know what the exact address of the Belgian media is, Didier sent them a correction.

To the question put forth by the plaintiff's lawyer as to whether the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia had permission from their countries to enter the Republic of Croatia during the months of May, June and July, I state that this caused issues for me because this information changed very quickly and it was difficult to find out at any given moment in time. There was a period when the Serbian borders were closed and the Hungarian borders remained open, so through the Viber community, we advised Serbian citizens to come to Croatia via Hungary. I don't know if Swiss citizens had permission to enter Croatia from April to July 2020. In July, the situation changed, Americans could not fly via Frankfurt, so Switzerland allowed travel via Zurich. I don't know what the share of travellers from Belgium and Ireland was before 2020, nor do I know what the share of travellers from Switzerland was. I know that Serbia was one of the most attractive markets for Croatia for tourism.

Regarding business cooperation with the plaintiff, I state that I occasionally wrote articles for them in the period from 2016 to 2018, and in 2019 and 2020 I offered them cooperation, so for three projects I was at a meeting [with them] in March 2020 - the project regarding digital nomads in the Republic of Croatia, religious tourism and the Olympic Games Festival of traditional Dalmatian Games. I offered the Minister of Tourism our Viber platform for information about the coronavirus and travel, I thought it would be stronger if it was official, but he did not get back to us. I did not offer him business cooperation under market conditions. I don't remember if it was before June the 12th, 2020. The 2020 [tourist] season ended well in Croatia compared to other competitor countries.

In response to the question put forth by the lawyer of the plaintiff, I state that in the press release of the tourist board dated June the 1st, 2020, it was stated that Croatia was opening its borders to seven markets - Slovenia, Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Poland, Germany and Hungary, while there were no other campaigns ever since the 1st of March, 2020, when all activities of the CNTB were stopped due to the [public health] crisis, and even though the borders were opened on the 13th of May, 2020, only on the 1st of June, 2020 was there a new campaign which meant three weeks of nothing.

I have nothing more to say, there are no more questions.

The parties unanimously state that they have no further evidentiary proposals, and they propose to close the main hearing.

No further evidence will be taken.

The file and the documentation attached to the file have been read.

The plaintiff proposes the court accept the claim in its entirety, with compensation for the costs of the litigation according to the bill of costs which they have submitted.

The defendant proposes the court reject the claim of the plaintiff, with compensation for the costs of the litigation according to the bill of costs which they have submitted.

The main discussion has been closed.

The hearing for the publication and delivery of the verdict is scheduled for: January the 13th, 2023 at 09:50 - Room 219/II. 

To follow Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit into its fourth calendar year, follow the dedicated TCN section.

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What is it like to live in Croatia? An expat for 20 years, you can follow my series, 20 Ways Croatia Changed Me in 20 Years, starting at the beginning - Business and Dalmatia.

Follow Paul Bradbury on LinkedIn.

Croatia, a Survival Kit for Foreigners is now available on Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.

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Thursday, 17 November 2022

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Irish Newspapers & Belgian Radio

November 17, 2022 - It is more than 9 months since I have graced the inside of a Croatian courtroom, but Boy, was it worth the wait. The latest instalment of the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism v The Fat Blogger in Diary of a Croatian lawsuit, episode 7: Irish Newspapers & Belgian Radio.

In some ways, I am going to be very sad when my lawsuits from the Croatian National Tourist Board are finally resolved in 2063 or beyond. They add SUCH a surreal touch to an already insane way of life in Absurdistan, the lifestyle capital of Europe, with a sprinkling of Balkan insanity on top. Aka Croatia.

Today, I found myself taking the witness stand to defend myself in a lawsuit due to an article that I didn't write on a portal that I don't own which quoted me. Neither the jounalist nor the portal was sued, no request for a retraction was made, and the article is still live today as published, some 2.5 years later. You can read the article here.

To give you an idea of how I spent my morning, here are three of the questions the prosecution put to me during my cross-examination of almost an hour on the witness stand:

"How many Irish print newspapers did you read in 2020?"

"Do you speak French?"

"How close are you to Minister of the Interior Bozinovic?"

And a hundred other random questions, all carefully recorded for posterity. Perhaps now you can understand why I almost don't want these lawsuits to end. 

Another reason that I am in no rush to end them is the excellent time I have with my legendica extraordinaire lawyer, Vanja Juric, who really is a national treasure. After today's 2-hour plus hearing, she confided in me that my case is her favourite case in her portfolio. That really made my day. 

As much as Vanja is fun to hang out with (and she really is), she is the model professional and knows how to prepare her clients for the court. She suggested a meeting the day before the hearing.  

"Do you remember exactly on which points of the article you are being sued, Paul?" asked Vanja. 

It was so long ago, but I had it in the plan to check all before court, but I thought it wiser to let her explain. 

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The first point was that I was openly critical of the tourist board for only targeting 7 countries in their first campaign during corona, with a press release on June 2, 2020, which you can see above and on this link. If we were trying to attract tourists by car rather than by plane, surely it would make sense to include Switzerland, Serbia and BiH, I argued. 

Looking at the press release 2.5 years later, I became even more confused. What was wrong with what I said, that it could cost me 50,000 kuna plus costs and all the distress (ok, I am making the distress up - ever since Vanja took the case, I knew I would be fine). 

My second alleged crime was to criticise the tourist board for failing to monitor international media, some of which was putting out incorrect information. When the Irish Times published a story saying that Irish tourists would not be allowed to go to Croatia, I published a story highlighting this as an example of the kind of headline that the tourist board should be on top of. I then went a little further, emailing the editor of The Irish Times with the correct information. 

The headline was changed within the hour. 

A reader then sent me a link to a similar story in Belgium. I suggested he contact the portal and get it changed. He did and it was. 

Two volunteers trying to help, while we have an organisation of 70 full-time employees who are paid to promote Croatian tourism, and nobody noticed. When asked about this in a previous hearing, a tourist board representative informed the court that they pay for a press clipping service, and the problem had been resolved by the time they got their clipping. 

Did I feel I was right to criticise the tourist board for not doing their job? Yes. The last time I checked, Croatia was still a democracy, and the right to free speech and voicing an opinion did not normally come with the threat of a 50,000 kuna penalty. 

I left Vanja's office feeling much better about taking the witness stand, but a lot more confused and a little angry at why I was actually being sued at all, if these were the two points. 

And so the day arrived... 

After the prosecution had called two witnesses in the last hearing, now it was our turn. Vanja called the former Communications Director of the Office of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia, Kresimir Macan, and luxury tourism consultant, Zoran Pejovic, who was also quoted in the article - but not sued. Indeed, as we learned previously, I was the only media person that the Croatian National Tourist Board sued in the whole of 2020 - and they sued me twice.

One of the things you learn when you are being sued in Croatia is to expect the unexpected. Will the hearing even take place, or will it be postponed at the last minute? So far, I am into my third calendar year with these lawsuits, and hearings have been postponed no less than four times, often due to the prosecution lawyer double booking his time and then not noticing until shortly before the hearing. Despite having a law practice with no less than 50 lawyers, it seems that my case is so complicated that it can only be handled by one dedicated senior partner. 

And so we gathered outside room 219 of the Zagreb Municipal Court for our 09:00 hearing. Zoran, bless him, had woken up very early to get the first flight from Split and then flew back straight after the hearing. It was his first time in the witness box. 

09:00 and no sign of their lawyer. Had it been postponed again?

We entered the court only for the judge to say their lawyer had called to say that he was running late, but that the show would go on. And on it went. 

First up, Kreso Macan, who gave a very good account of events as they were. As co-founder of the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community, as well as having excellent relations with the police and other institutions due to his job and life in the political scene, he probably had the best overall picture of anyone in the country of the situation at the time.

Next up Zoran, for his first taste of Croatian justice close up. Zoran confirmed that he was happy with the way that he had been represented in the article, as well as endorsing my work and then spent a rather surreal few minutes answering questions on how tourists came to Croatia from Ireland before the pandemic - by car, plane or train. 

The questions were incessant, and I started to wonder if their lawyer was being paid by the number of questions asked. 

Zoran was free to go, and it was my turn.

As the defendant in a case in Croatia, you are allowed to make a statement, and then you are subjected to questions from the prosecution and then from the defence. Even though it was not directly relevant to the charges of the case, I wanted the judge to understand the timeline, as well as to document it for this Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit. Looking back at the timeline more than two years later, it just seems crazier than at the time. 

Here we go. 

January 25, 2020 - First corona article on TCN.

February 2020 - the start of the TCN Daily Travel Update, documenting borders, air, road, train, ferry, and permit information. It was not long before CNN was linking to this page as the only real source of information in English. 

February 25 - first corona case in Croatia.

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March 9 - first corona map of Croatia, by TCN.

Almost TWO months later, May 6, the Croatian Ministry of Tourism had absolutely NO mention of coronavirus on its website. 

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And the corona travel advice from the Croatian National Tourist Board was epic. If you couldn't find what you were looking for in the gobbledygook below, the advice was to email the ministry, not the tourist board. The same ministry where corona did not exist.

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What a difference a few days make, as the Croatian media reported after I wrote an article on the subject. 

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Not to be outdone, the Croatian National Tourist Board upgraded their information to something vaguely useful, as you can see below.

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May 13 - Croatia partially reopens, but there is confusion as to who can actually come in, and under which conditions. 

May 17 - I suggested to Macan that we go to the Slovenian border to see the situation on the ground. We were shocked to see people being turned back at the border, Slovenian tourists desperate to get to the sea but unaware that they needed a paid reservation. Official information was zero. And so Macan suggested we start the Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber community. It was a project that took up half of my summer, earned me zero kuna, won 7 international awards (mostly for crisis management), and taught me more than any project in my life. 

May 19 - The Total Croatia Travel INFO Viber Community is launched. 

June 2 - The Croatian National Tourist Board launches its campaign in 7 markets. 

June 12 - An article criticising official tourism promotion efforts appears in Index.hr, quoting me.

The blue letters from the Zagreb Municipal Court start to arrive, and the rest is history. 

After I finished, the questions began. So many questions. My favourite was

How many Irish print newspaper articles did you read in 2020?

How much news did you watch on Irish TV? Or on Irish radio?

Knowing that I was to be cross-examined on my relationship with Belgian radio, I put it on record for the court that the only media I follow was online media, in an effort to reduce the number of questions. 

My assertion that I had an excellent relationship with MUP, with whom we cooperated superbly (MUP was THE only effective tourist info provider at one point, and it was their staff, not the 319 tourist boards that were answering the barrage of tourist questions, with help from TCN and our Viber Community) led to questions of the closeness of my relationship with the Minister, who I have met twice in my life. 

My French language proficiency was apparently relevant to see if I had understood the corrected article mentioned above from Belgium. There were lots of questions about my knowledge of the numbers of tourists from certain markets, which borders were open in Croatia in certain months, and many more questions I can no longer recall, but eventually, some two hours after the hearing started, the questions finally stopped. 

The judge announced that the case will go into its fourth calendar year, but that there will be a verdict, which will be given on January 13, 2023. 

Win or lose, I will see a little less of Vanja, which will make me a little sad, but the highlight of the day remains that I am her favourite case. 

Stay tuned for the next episode of Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit. With three active lawsuits against me, there is still plenty to write about. Check out the dedicated section to this madness for the latest.  

 

Monday, 30 May 2022

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: From the Sublime to the Surreal

May 30, 2022 - As the second anniversary of two lawsuits against TCN CEO Paul Bradbury approaches, the latest court hearing in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, a diary which will run and run and run. 

One of the things that I have learned about being sued in Croatia is that it is very important to be in control of your calendar. This is true both for the lawyers and the defendant. Without proper control of the calendar, lawyers can double book appointments (not once, but twice) leading to a delay in the hearing. This is something we observed in a previous court report where I uncovered a solution to speed up the Croatian judicial system - we simply need to crowdfund for more legal secretaries to organise the lawyers. Read more in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: 50 Lawyers, No Secretary, No Hearing.  

For the defendant, diaries are also important. I am a notoriously disorganised person, and planning ahead is not one of my strengths. One thing I am learning about the Croatian legal process is that nobody is in a hurry. The two delayed hearings from the double-booked prosecution lawyer, for example, put back the first hearing by over 6 months. I am not necessarily in a hurry either, although there is the small issue of the rolling interest on the lawsuit. This stands at 8% a year, so for every year that the case goes on (and we are at 2 years almost already), add 8,000 kuna to the 100,000 kuna claimed from the two lawsuits. If I lose. So with a double-booked prosecution lawyer delaying proceedings by 6 months, that is an additional potential 2,000 kuna to pay on one of the two lawsuits. 

My problem with planning in the future is that the last hearing in November threw up a date in May the following year (another 2,000 kuna). As I never have anything planned that far ahead, I didn't immediately take a note of the exact day - it would come with the court notes later. 

Thursday May 5, at midday in the Zagreb Municipal Court, the documentation told me. 

This hearing would see the first witnesses giving evidence on an article that I did not write on a portal that I do not own which quoted me. As I understand it, there was no request for retraction, and the article is still live in its original format today. Given that the lawsuit is for 50,000 kuna for defamation, and seemingly no effort has been made to remove or alter the original article, I find this a little strange. 

Both sides were invited to provide witnesses to give evidence in the hearing. My other lawsuit, for a meme featuring the official Croatian tourist board slogan, had myself and the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board on the witness stand talking about uhljebs, how many Facebook followers I had, what I was doing before I moved to Croatia 20 years ago, and a host of other things. It was my first time on the witness stand in a court of law, and it was a rather strange experience, as you can read in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: HTZ Director Kristjan Stanicic Talks Uhljebs.

Two witnesses were proposed from the prosection, both employees of the national tourist board, and three for the defence, including the journalist who wrote the article (whom I have never met). I was surprised to learn that both prosecution witnesses were called to appear on May 5, but only one for the defence. My lawyer informed me that this was quite normal, as 5 witnesses were too much for one hearing, and the other witnesses would be called at a later date. As it turns out, the remaining two witnesses have been called to appear in 6 months' time, in November (another 2,000 kuna...). 

About a month before the hearing, I started to get organised and realised to my horror that I was the one who was double booked. A conference I was involved in organising in Dubrovnik was taking place on May 5-7, with the opening welcome party on May 4. What an inconvenience (and additional expense) to fly to Dubrovnik for the opening, then fly back early the next morning to Zagreb, and then back to Dubrovnik in the afternoon, thereby missing the first day of the conference entirely.

And then it got really strange... 

One of the sponsors of the event came forward a couple of weeks before the conference, to sponsor the opening night (and very nice it was too) - none other than the Croatian National Tourist Board. Not only that, but one of the two people due to give evidence against me the following day in court in Zagreb was representing the tourist board at the event in Dubrovnik I was involved in organising. Sponsor your event by night, give evidence against you by day. 

A strange feeling indeed, and so the magical world of Croatia works. I wondered if we would share a cab to the airport, and then perhaps one to the Zagreb courtroom. I really didn't want to miss the first day of the conference, and in the end my lawyer Vanja Juric told me to stay in Dubrovnik. I would not be called to speak and nothing would be decided that day. She would handle all. 

And so to the opening night of the event in Dubrovnik where, as sponsors, the national tourist board soon-to-be prosecution witness (and a very nice lady) welcomed all to the Sponza Palace, shaking hands with those as they entered. 

"Hello Paul," she said, with the accompanying handshake, which was reciprocated. And so a pleasant evening ensued.

And so to the following day in Zagreb, which took place with me in the conference in Dubrovnik. 

The minutes of the lawsuit seemed to show that the prosecution witnesses consider that TCN has an insignificant reach and is not an important portal, and that I am not a tourism expert (I never claimed to be, although it is true that I get asked to talk about tourism at conferences - next one of the future of tourism at Future Tense in Zagreb on June 9). Apparently, the national tourist board did an excellent job and reacted well to everything. 

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Reporting on corona was a really intense time, especially after we introduced the award-winning Viber Community,  Total Croatia Travel INFO, which as Dubrovnik  Mayor Mato Frankovic noted, brought 'priceless' promotion to Dubrovnik when 12.5 million Americans tuned in to Good Morning America for a piece on Dubrovnik during the pandemic (see above). Not bad for an insignificant portal.

I decided to look back at the corona timeline with a little hindsight. Perhaps our tourism chiefs (and I include the Ministry of Tourism, then run by Minister Gari Cappelli and the rest of the tourist board structure) really did do an amazing job and were ahead of the game. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. A brief timeline: 

January 25, 2020 - The first article on TCN on coronavirus appears: What is Croatia Doing to Prevent the Spreading of the New Coronavirus?

February 25, 2020 - The first case of coronavirus in Croatia. Soon after TCN starts a daily update on coronavirus. 

March 9, 2020 - First ever coronavirus map (in English or Croatian) of Croatia appears on TCN. 

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May 6, 2020 (more than two months after the first case in Croatia, and almost two months since the first corona map), ZERO mention of coronavirus on the Ministry of Tourism website. COVID-19 as a topic simply does not exist. 

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There is precious little information on the national tourist board website either, unless you like to read official communiques from Narodne Novine - hardly a tourist-friendly read. 

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May 11, 2020 - All change 5 days later, however, as noted by leading portal, Index.hr

 

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Suddenly the Ministry had an entire section in English dedicated to coronavirus. 

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And for some reason, the Croatian National Tourist Board thought this might a good moment to also update its information. 

All good. Kind of. 

The problem was back then that there was so much unclear information. Nobody could tell you definitely who could or could not cross the border. As we had been writing about corona extensively, and with the lack of information from the official tourism bodies, as you can see above, a lot of people and portals (including CNN, which was linking to our daily update) were relying on TCN to get up-to-date information. From memory, our daily update had around half a million visits in total. 

May 17, 2020 - In the absence of any proper information, I asked Kreso Macan to come with me to visit the Slovenian border crossing at Bregana outside Zagreb, so that we could see firsthand what was happening, and who was - and was not - being allowed to enter. To say that confusion reigned would be an understatement

The Ministry of Health had recently launched the Koronavirus community which was enormously useful, as was the corresponding website - for Croatian readers. There was limited information in English, but it was something. The Ministry of the Interior (who were outstanding throughout corona) then started a section of their site with some information. But something was missing, and we decided to start a Viber community for tourists, similar to the Koronavirus one, a free service.  

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Within a couple of hours, we had a simple infographic that shared the essential information that simply was not available elsewhere. By the end of the first day, the community had translated this into 12 languages.  We worked hard and answered all the questions we could, as Macan put in the systems to automate the process. 

And then the new community showed us some other things...

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While we were answering the same day,  lots of questions to official websites asking for information were going unanswered. 5 days no response, 8 days no response - there were hundreds of posts like this. As we established above, I am not a tourism expert, but I am guessing that if a tourism country's official bodies cannot be bothered to answer questions about entry requirements, then perhaps tourists could choose somewhere else for your vacation.  

This is the reality of what was happening on the ground. 

I could go on, but fear that I have already gone on a lot. No, I am not a tourism expert, and yes, my portal has a miniscule reach, but despite this I am grateful for the 7 international awards for the Viber Community, that the likes of CNN and ABC News somehow managed to find us, that the Mayor of Dubrovnik appreciated the priceless (his word) promotion, and the literally dozens of people I have met all over the country who told me that without that Viber community, there would have been no chance of visiting Croatia at all. 

Does constructive criticism official bodies in Croatia work? Yes it can. Is it popular? No. I was intrigued to learn from the national director in court that I was the only person the national tourist board sued in all of 2020. And they sued me twice, despite me having a very small reach, and again after posting a variation of their logo on my private Facebook page for 3 days which has an even smaller reach - I wonder if they will be suing this national television broadcaster for playing around with their logo - Croatia, Full of Deception - on prime time television last week. 

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November will be a big month for Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, with the next hearings for both lawsuits scheduled for their next hearings. If there are no double bookings. 

To follow the latest from Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, click here.  

Tuesday, 1 February 2022

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: HTZ Director Kristjan Stanicic Talks Uhljebs

February 1, 2022 - A quite extraordinary day in court in the latest installment of Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, as Croatian National Tourist Board Director Kristjan Stanicic talks uhljebs. 

I am beginning to think that the lawyer for the prosecution is seriously cool, and when this is all over in 2063 or beyond, I am going to ask him out for a drink. If we are both still alive.  

When I first met him, I thought he was polite but perhaps a little incompetent. One of my lawsuits was delayed not once, but TWICE, for the simple reason that the prosecution lawyer had double-booked his time. And with interest of 8% per year accruing on the demand of 50,000 kuna for the case, just delaying the first hearing from May to November could potentially cost me an additional 2,000 kuna. Watching everyone checking their calendars for our next hearing - in SEPTEMBER, some 8 months away and a potential additional 3,000 kuna in interest - made me wonder if the delays were actually a deliberate tactic. 

This thought was reinforced by his appearance at two other hearings, where he presented additional motions to my lawyer, Vanja Juric, just 2 minutes before the hearing. One of these necessitated a 3-month delay (a potential additional 1,000 kuna in interest) in that hearing. 

And so we come to the hearing of January 20, 2022, which must surely rank as one of the most surreal experiences of my 18 years in Croatia. The Kingdom v The Fat Blogger, Round 6, and a hearing where both myself and the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic, were called upon to give evidence on the logo, Croatia, Full of Uhljebs, which I posted on my private Facebook page with no comment for 3 days in August 2020. It attracted 316 likes, 20 comments, and 9 shares.

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And then it was completely forgotten until the ensuing lawsuit was made public, and suddenly the logo was on the morning and evening national news, the front page of many news portals, and even a poll on Index, with almost 17,000 people voting - 95% for me. As one journalist described it - this is the biggest PR own goal in the history of the Croatian National Tourist Board.  

The January 20 hearing was set back in July (another potential 2,000 kuna interest to add to the bill), the same time as the FITUR Travel Expo in Madrid was announced. We all knew the date for 6 months. This was the hearing where I and Director Stanicic would be called to the witness stand to give evidence. I was quite excited by this, as I had never been on the witness stand before and had no idea what kind of 'evidence' I could give about posting a meme on my Facebook page without comment for three days. I had also never met the Croatian National Tourist Board Director, so this would be an opportunity for that. I made arrangements for a court interpreter so that my words would be properly conveyed. 

And then... 

On Friday, January 14 in the evening, as we had all packed up for the weekend, an email from their lawyer saying that Director Stanicic had to go to Madrid from Tuesday January 18 to  Friday January 21 to attend the fair in Madrid, and so would not be able to attend. As evidence, the lawyer supplied a copy of the director's plane ticket. 

Vanja advised me not to give evidence before the plaintiff, but to go to court on the 20th. So I cancelled my court interpreter with apologies.  

And so came the day of court, Thursday, January 20, with the hearing set for 12:00, with the director supposedly far away in Madrid. Just before 09:00, a phone call from Vanja saying that she had just received an email from their lawyer saying that Director Stanicic was not in Madrid and would be coming to give evidence after all. Having presumably not taken the flight two days earlier, for some reason they had waited until just before the hearing to say that he would now appear. 

My court interpreter was now busy and it seemed that it would be impossible to find another. What to do? Vanja advised that we meet at 11:15 for a couple of pints to discuss what I should say if I had to give evidence without an interpreter. Thankfully, at around 11:00, I managed to find one, and we agreed to meet Dominik in front of the court at 11:50. 

And then it began... a legal boxing match, with the heavyweight prosecution trading blows with my extremely elegant and bantamweight Vanja. She was dancing around the courtroom with such style with her statements, questions, and objections. 

One interesting revelation from her questioning of the director was that the only blogger or journalist sued by the Croatian National Tourist Board in 2020 was me. Twice. Those who shared the meme were not pursued. 

Stanicic's testimony was extraordinary (and you can see a translation of the court minutes in full below - these contain most but not all of what transpired). You have to remember that the testimony was about a meme. He talked of the extraordinary tourism numbers, how he has been in tourism all his life, of the mental anguish his staff had been subjected to be being labelled uhljebs. He just kept on talking about things that were totally irrelevant to the case, but seemed to make him feel better. 

We have a saying in Manchester - what does that have to do with the price of fish in Istanbul? 

Vanja's questions were technical, focused, and to the point. And then came my turn, and so I took to the witness stand for the first time in my life in a courtroom and was invited to give my statement. 

What to say? How to give evidence about a meme? I said I had no idea why I was here. I had posted a meme on my private Facebook page which was satire. I was not familiar with Croatian law, but I was 100% confident that if this went to the European courts, I would be vindicated based on EU precedent. Although I didn't want to drag Croatian tourism's image all the way to Strasbourg in 2063 (or whenever the case would be heard there), despite the enormous PR this case is giving TCN, I was fully prepared to do so. The meme was posted without comment, and if the plaintiff recognised himself in the meme, that was hardly my issue.

And then the cross-examination started. I remind you again that the case surrounds the posting of a meme. 

The questions were extraordinary. What jobs was I doing before I came to Croatia? How many employees did I have? What was the history of my company in Croatia? I was half-expecting to be asked my favourite sexual position, and did I like blue Smarties. Vanja objected to some of the questions, and most of those objections were sustained. 

The question of what I was doing before Croatia was particularly interesting, as director Stancic declared that he had worked in tourism all his life. According to the court records, he was born in 1983, and he would have been just 5 when I had my first job in tourism, managing the night shift when The Rolling Stones came to play in Munich, and changing Henry Kissenger's ashtray among the highlights. 

I am not sure how it related to the case itself, but it seemed that they wanted to prove that I was not a tourism expert. In answer to how many fans I had on Facebook, I answered close to the limit of 5,000. At this point, their lawyer pulled out a printout of my Facebook homepage (yes, that is how much I seem to be in their head) to show I only had about 1,500 fans. Ah, ok I replied, I thought you meant Facebook friends (currently 4,998). And I asked myself... 

If I only have 1,500 followers, and I only posted the meme on my private Facebook page for 3 days with no comment, and if nobody else was sued all year (including those who shared the meme), and if they never asked me to remove the meme (it is still on Facebook), do I really deserve to be singled out for a punitive lawsuit of 50,000 kuna for a piece of satire few people knew about before their actions turned it into a national news story?

And in order to keep more wasting of public funds, let me state for the record that I am not a tourism expert and never claimed to be. 

Director Stanicic seemed a little obsessed with the notion that I was singling out the Croatian National Tourist Board as an uhljeb organisation, which I was not. I went on record as saying that one of the best people in Croatian tourism, in my opinion, is the Head of Global PR, Lucijana Jerkovic.  You can read the rest in the minutes below. 

Things were becoming quite heated in the courtroom - the hearing went on for well over two hours (and I knew Vanja had another client and was already late) and then the most extraordinary part of the whole day.

Their lawyer said that the Croatian National Tourist Board would be open to ending the case if I was to apologise. Vanja declined. Their lawyer said that he was asking me, and even when Vanja pointed out she had Power of Attorney to speak on my behalf, he persisted. And so I opened my mouth and uttered my first sentence ever in Croatian in court.

"Ne."

And so we got our calendars out again in 8 months. At the next hearing, each side will bring in expert witnesses. For the plaintiff, the Head of Legal for the Croatian National Tourist Board. For the defence, Kresimir Macan, former Communications Director of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Croatia. 

It really is that nuts...

And then, the boxing match over, the prosecution lawyer was all smiles and a handshake for dear Vanja, and one for me. I really do think he might be a seriously cool guy. 

I have still not met the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board. 

You can follow the latest in our Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit feature

The Minutes from January the 20th, 2022 from the hearing held at the Municipal Civil Court in Zagreb

Present from the court:

Judge: Davorka Ćurko Nasić
Plaintiff: Croatian National Tourist Board/CNTB
Defendant: Paul David Raymond Bradbury
Clerk: Ina Gotal
Settlement: Damages

Prosecutor/Plaintiff (the director of the aforementioned) Kristijan Staničić, father's name Petar, born on October 1, 1983, in Koper, Slovenia, mag. of Economic Sciences by profession, residential address: Vlade Grozdanića 17, Rijeka, OIB: 80726996870, declares:

The subject of the publication/post on the defendant's Facebook page/profile was noticed by the CNTB's service, which monitors posts/publications placed on Facebook, considering that the CNTB itself has its own Facebook page. The plaintiff/prosecutor is an organisation of economic entities established with the aim of promoting Croatian tourism and in accordance with Art. 4 of the Law on Tourist Boards and the Promotion of Tourism, the slogan "Croatia full of life/Hrvatska puna zivota" is used as a sign of Croatian tourism.

As such, it is protected by the Croatian Intellectual Property Office and can be used only with the consent of the prosecutor/plaintiff. The controversial [part of] the Facebook post [in question] is the use of this slogan in a distorted form, which actually alludes to the fact that the organisation of the plaintiff/prosecutor is full of greed, so such a revelation hurt the prosecutor's employees who all carry out their jobs professionally. I must also say that this publication/post followed a previous series of negative posts about the plaintiff via various media outlets and, among other things, from various authors, and I do not remember whether or not the defendant was among them. I would like him to explain what he meant by posting the distorted version the plaintiff's slogan and what he meant by that, and that we are ready for a peaceful settlement of the dispute in that case.

To that, I declare that in relation to [Croatia's] competing countries, in 2020, when the slogan was published on the defendant's Facebook profile, we had 10-15% better results than our competition in that tourist season, which speaks [highly] of the entrepreneurial work of the plaintiff's employees. I declare that all data on the work of the CNTB and the results of that work are available on our website and are updated on a monthly basis so that they would have still been available to the defendant before [that] publication.

I declare that before I started working as the director of the organisation which is prosecuting (the plaintiff), I worked in the private sector in managerial positions for 15 years, and I have been involved in tourism all my life. I declare that I perceive the term ''uhljeb'' negatively, just as everyone does. I state that the number of people employed by the prosecutor is more or less the same and has not increased since I became the head of the CNTB. I must say that there is really a professional circle of people working in the field of marketing, digital marketing, public relations, etc. I declare that the defendant did not contact us or offer us his services. When asked why we did not initiate proceedings for trademark infringement, I stated that I was not a lawyer and that I had left it to my lawyers [to deal with].

I declare that the plaintiff was established on the basis of the Law on Tourist Boards and does not represent a public authority, and its founders are economic entities that pay tourist dues/fees and based on that our work is partially financed. [Our] members are not only companies engaged in tourism but also banks and other economic entities. I declare that the plaintiff does not have any public authority. I declare that the membership fee(s) is (are) collected on the basis of the law, that is, they are not made voluntarily.

I declare that the law prescribes mandatory membership, ie the obligation to be a member of the organisation, ie the establishment of the prosecutor/plaintiff. As for the slogan Croatia full of life/Hrvatska puna zivota, I declare that it means Croatia full of life/Hrvatska puna zivota and it is a sign/logo/slogan of Croatian tourism, which was determined by the decision of the Tourist Board as such, and confirmed by the Assembly of the Croatian Tourist Board.

In practice, it means that everything Croatia can offer in the context of the Croatian tourist offer as part of the attempt to make Croatia a year-round tourist destination, ie to extend the pre- and post-season tourism season.

[When asked/Upon request] if we have protected the label "Croatia, Croatian National Tourist Board" which are on our materials attached to the list of file(s) 51 in the upper left corner, I declare that it is part of the Croatian tourism sign/logo/slogan and declare that it is registered separately in this slogan which is the subject of the dispute, and is the same visual identity of the CNTB, ie the plaintiff.

I declare that the plaintiff is not obliged to conduct a public tender when hiring employees, but only when hiring a director. When asked if we filed a lawsuit against some media because of these articles, which were negative, I declare that I do not remember whether we filed a lawsuit in 2020, but we had filed lawsuits against the media before.

I declare that I think that in 2020 we did not file any lawsuits against persons who expressed negative views about the plaintiff. I declare that we did not contact the defendant before initiating the procedure regarding the [Facebook] publication/post of the disputed slogan in the sense that it should be removed from his Facebook page/profile. I declare that I have no information as to whether the plaintiff is listed in the list of public authorities of the Republic of Croatia. Upon request, I declare that according to the Statute of the Prosecutor, I do not have to have the permission of the Tourist Council to initiate such proceedings because according to the law and the Statute, I represent the plaintiff/prosecutor and am responsible for the legality of its work.

I have nothing else to say. There are no further questions.

Defendant Paul David Raymond Bradbury, father's name Terence, born 11 March 1969, in Bury, Great Britain, a journalist and publicist by profession, declares:

I published/post the controversial slogan on my private Facebook page, which has nothing to do with the work I do, and otherwise I am a journalist and publisher by profession. It was a satirical publication, and I think that similar publications/posts created the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and that it would not be nice for this procedure to end in that instance because it would be bad for Croatia's image in Europe.

I did not specifically intend to accuse anyone [of anything] with this publication/post, it was [instead] my reference to the situation that the [coronavirus] pandemic brought to tourism and the reaction of public bodies to that situation, ie, I meant the reaction of the Croatian Tourist Board, the Ministry of Tourism and other tourist boards and ministries, which I felt was insufficient for the situation we all found ourselves in.

I must say that I founded a Viber group with my colleagues with the aim of promoting Croatian tourism and providing timely and up-to-date information regarding the situation in Croatia related to tourism and this group received 7 international awards. For example, in 2020 there was not even timely information on the possibility of tourists coming to Croatia and I personally monitored the situation and how this information was presented, for example, in the Irish Times, there was information that tourists could not enter Croatia. I reacted and sent an e-mail to the editor-in-chief and said that was not true, after which this incorrect information was corrected.

All my involvement in the promotion of Croatian tourism was voluntary and awarded several times and I communicated with the then Minister of Tourism [Gari] Capelli, although I do not believe that he did what we agreed on and over recent days I have had meetings with today's tourism minister to make available my possible assistance to tourism in Croatia. It is true that in several articles I have written I have pointed out some things which [I believe] are not good. I pointed out that we have an 18-hole golf course in Zagreb, which was not emphasised anywhere in the promotional materials, after which this information was added to promotional materials. I pointed out that we have 3 airports on Hvar, so this information was added, with some tourist boards, such as those of Dubrovnik and the City of Zagreb, I have a very good cooperation.

I believe that my task as a journalist and given my engagement in terms of a positive contribution to the promotion of Croatian tourism is to criticise everything that is not good in order to help improve things. Some see this as a positive incentive, for example, the ministries to which I pointed out that they still use fax in communication and not e-mail communication have corrected this after my remarks.

I would like to add that in 2020, I lost clients due to the [coronavirus] pandemic that affected the world, and as a volunteer I got involved in helping Croatian tourism in the way I described it, and my dissatisfaction is that as a volunteer, I noticed and reacted to situations that I thought the authorities needed to pay attention to, and it resulted in a satirical publication/post [on Facebook] aimed at pointing out that there is not enough involvement of the public bodies in Croatian tourism, and I think that this did not only apply to tourism but to the information [being given out] in general. I refer to the pandemic that I think was not so bad in Croatia compared to other countries, and owing to which other countries had a higher rate of infection than Croatia then did.

Finally, I would like to congratulate the director of the prosecutor/plaintiff on the excellent results that Croatia has had in tourism during these pandemic times, and they should acknowledge the fact that this is not only the merit of the prosecutor/plaintiff but also other individuals who appeared in a similar way as I did.

I would also add that thanks to that Viber group, ABC News sent its journalists to Dubrovnik for 6 days, which really helped in the promotion of Croatian tourism, as did the article in the Good Morning America show which is very highly watched. I would add that other people published this logo in the same way as me and as far as I know the plaintiff/prosecutor did not sue those persons, and the plaintiff/prosecutor initiated [against me] another procedure in which he seeks damages in the same amount due to an article/publication on another portal with which I have no connection, and the said portal quoted me.

As for employment, I declare that I have my own company, and I actually have two companies, one of which I am the owner of, and in the other I have three employees, unlike the first one in which I am the only employee. To the question of what my work experience is, I declare that I have owned this company for 18 years, which initially dealt with real estate and now deals with media publishing. I declare that I started a website in 2011 that dealt with the tourism of the island of Hvar, and I can say that I have written more than 9,000 articles about the island of Hvar which he thinks is more than anyone else in history.

Upon request, I declare that I know what the term uhljeb means, and it comes from the Serbian word hljeb which means bread and means people who are engaged in work or possibly got a job in public bodies through a connection and do not do work with the highest professional standards or explore their maximum potential.

Upon request, I declare that the posts on my Facebook page are mostly [written] in English, and three years ago I may have had about 3,000 followers of/on my Facebook private page/profile. That is in response to the plaintiff pointing out that I have about 1,500 Facebook followers, I declare that it is possible that I have so many, and I have 5,000 friends (the Facebook-imposed limit). I declare that I do not remember the font in which this slogan was published, and it is certainly a similar font to the original. I know that font is used by the plaintiff/prosecutor.

I believe that the slogan I published did not refer to the Government of the Republic of Croatia, and when asked if it referred to the Ministry of Tourism, I declare that it referred to a number of experiences I have had.

I declare that it was not aimed at any public body or institution specifically in response to the question of whether or not the publication/post was aimed at the entire state apparatus, when asked whether its criticism was directed at the entire state apparatus, which, due to its functioning, is not able to respond to changed market responsibilities as stated in the submission of January the 11th, 2022, so that it would certainly not cooperate now with the tourist board of the City of Zagreb and Dubrovnik, and I would show, for example, good cooperation with Minister [Davor] Božinović who gave me an application for a border pass and with whom cooperated extremely well. For example, I sat with the officials of the Ministry of the Interior in a special department that answers inquiries from foreigners regarding the possibility of entering the Republic of Croatia, who were literally drowning in e-mails that they could not answer until the prosecutor did something about it. And it didn't do much about it.

During the pandemic, so 2019, 2020 and 2021, I declare that the last meeting I had with the prosecutor/plaintiff was in March 2020, during which I presented three ideas, one of which was the idea of ​​tourism in the form of digital nomadism, and I planned that it would be in the form of some kind of contractual relationship, that is, that we would cooperate on that project together, but we did not go so far as to talk about engagement in that sense at all. But I can say that I had my first business collaboration with the prosecutor in 2016 and after a constructive article I wrote and published in the Croatian media and then I got a call from the previous director of the prosecutor/plaintiff (CNTB) because there were a lot of negative media reactions to what I wrote.

In other words, they invited me to cooperate after such negative reactions, so I would like to point out that when I had a meeting with the former director of the prosecutor/plaintiff, I agreed with him on a project within which I wrote 20 articles on tourism in Croatia for a fee of EUR 10,000 which was duly paid, and the articles in question were duly written but have never been published. When I asked one year later what was going on with the 20 articles I wrote, they told me they would get to them and publish them, however, they have not published them yet, in my opinion, like this lawsuit, this is another example of the bad use of plaintiff's funds, ie taxpayer money. Bearing in mind that the director of the prosecutor/plaintiff is sitting in this courtroom with us, while at the same time Croatia Airlines has a promotion in its magazine about Osijek - a city on the Danube, speaks enough for itself.

When asked if I think that the employees of the plaintiff/prosecutor are uhljebs/uhljebi, I state that there are extraordinary people who are employed there and I cooperate with many of them, for example, I have an exceptional opinion about the prosecutor's spokesperson, ie the head of international public relations, ie global PR. I think there are people who do their job well and those who do it much worse.

I have nothing else to say. There are no further questions.

The director of the plaintiff has a complaint about the truthfulness of the defendant's testimony because the plaintiff published information on the possibility of tourists coming to the Republic of Croatia on their website, and this information still exists today and was published on March the 8th, 2020 and further points out that the prosecutor is open to constructive cooperation with all those who can contribute to the betterment of Croatian tourism.

You can follow the latest in our Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit feature

Sunday, 5 December 2021

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Substitute Lawyer Miraculously Appears!

December 5, 2021 - Round 5 of the Kingdom of Accidental Tourism v The Fat Blogger, and the most dramatic hearing so far.

I have to confess that I am really enjoying my ongoing lawsuits by the Croatian National Tourist Board. The longer the process goes on, the more absurd if becomes, and the blogging material is gold. 

But last month's hearing was epic, taking things to the next level.

It was always going to be a surreal experience, as we all knew that we would gather for three pointless minutes, only to check our diaries to coordinate the next pointless hearing several months down the line, as the timeline of a typical Croatian lawsuit took shape. 

Full disclosure, I arrived at the latest hearing on the back of a monumental trip promoting tourism in Slavonia, my body marinated in rakija after one of the best weeks of my 18 years in Croatia. Nothing about the previous week had been normal, and so an appearance in a Croatian court was a natural next step. 

To recap. 

I am facing two lawsuits from the Croatian National Tourist Board:

1. For an article that I didn't write, on a portal that I don't own, in which I was quoted. Neither the journalist nor the portal was sued. There was no request for a retraction. The article is still live, and you can enjoy it here. I was sued for defamation for 50,000 kuna. 

2. For three days last year, my private Facebook cover photo featured an amended Croatian National Tourist Board logo - from Croatia, Full of Life to Croatia, Full of Uhljebs. Another lawsuit for 50,000 kuna. 

The logo attracted 316 likes at the time, 20 comments, and 9 shares. After 3 days it was forgotten. Until...

Once the lawsuits became public, the story was EVERYWHERE. I was on the evening national news, national breakfast television, and Index even did a poll that attracted almost 17,000 votes. 

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One portal described the lawsuit as 'the greatest PR own goal in the history of the Croatian National Tourist Board.'

I couldn't possibly comment on that, but it has been fascinating to see how this lawsuit continues to keep alive a piece of satire that would otherwise have been long forgotten after a brief appearance on social media. 

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Croatia, Full of Uhljebs entered the world of academia this week, as Legendica Extraordinaire, my fabulous lawyer Vanja Juric, used it as a case study in her guest lecture at the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Zagreb, while talking about the joys of representing journalists, publishers, and fat bloggers.

I would be lost without her. 

But I digress. To last month's court hearing, which was not about the logo, but about the article that I didn't write on the portal that I don't own. 

I would like to establish the timeline.

June 12, 2020 - Index.hr published the offending article - Fiasco: We brag that we are a corona-free zone, but foreign tourists have no idea about it.

August 2020 - A lawsuit is stamped by the court

October 2020 - The lawsuit is delivered to my address. I panic. Even more so when a second lawsuit appears two weeks later.

October 2020 - I meet Croatia's leading media lawyer, Vanja Juric. I immediately stop panicking. 

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April 3, 2021 - I change my Facebook cover photo to inform people I am being sued. I am genuinely humbled at the outrage and hundreds of messages of support and offers of financial assistance.

May 3, 2021 -  The first hearing of the lawsuit for the article I didn't write on the portal I don't own is delayed until May 31. The lawyer for the prosecution has double-booked his time apparently. Despite the fact that there are 50 lawyers in the law firm, nobody else can represent the plaintiff in this most complicated of cases. Their lawyer calls Vanja to reschedule (I am sure the timing of the hearing, less than 2 weeks from national local elections, played no part). We have no reason to delay, having done nothing wrong, and politely decline. The court then informs us that the hearing will be delayed until May 31. 

May 26, 2021 - I learn that it is possible to film proceedings if I apply to the court for permission more than 48 hours in advance. Within an hour of my email, I receive a reply from the court that this it is not possible, as the hearing has been delayed to November 22. Vanja receives an email at the same time, which informs her that the plaintiff's lawyer has double-booked again. Vanja calls the judge to register her displeasure that this has now happened twice. The judge was unaware that this was the second time he had double-booked and stated that it would not happen again.

November 2021 - I apply to film the November 22 hearing, but am again denied. It is not in the public interest (I would argue that the Index poll would make it so), and there are the epidemiological measures to consider (I am not quite sure how taking my mobile out of my pocket is going to spread COVID-19, but the decision is final).

November 22, 2021 - We are rather surprised to arrive at the court to find another lawyer waiting to represent the Croatian National Tourist Board. The original lawyer, who seemingly is the only one qualified to handle such a complicated case, is stuck in traffic. With no option to delay the hearing due to the judge's decision after the last postponement, he miraculously found a colleague who was free and available to take his place at very short notice. Quite extraordinary, given that this was not possible with weeks of notice with the previous two postponed hearings. 

!We begin, and then after 10 minutes, in walks the original lawyer, pulling his suitcase behind him, as though he was entering a bar after getting back from holiday.

Vanja suggested that we end this farce without wasting everyone's time further. She pointed out that the plaintiff would need to prove that I had done something against the law. As I had merely stated a value judgment about the work of a public institution, this cannot be deemed as against the law. The prosecution would also need to prove the act of causing damage, the causal link between the act and damages, and to prove that any damages justified the financial damages sought. As this was clearly impossible to do, it made no sense to continue. 

The judge said that she had to listen to the witnesses from both sides, so we went into our calendars, and agreed to meet again (assuming no double bookings or traffic jams) on May 5, 2022, just over a year since the first hearing postponement, and almost two years since the article appeared online. 

And then something interesting. 

Actually two things. 

The first was that Croatian National Tourist Board's lawyer said that they were open to an apology. This was excellent news. I, too, am open to an apology. If they would like to apologise to me, pay for my costs, and treat legendica Vanja and her family to a weekend on the coast as a compensation for her time, I would be happy to move on. 

The second thing was very interesting... and a little disappointing. When we meet again in May next year, both sides will be producing witnesses which have already been identified. One of the two for the plaintiff was the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, Kristjan Stanicic, a man I have never met. It seemed that we were destined to finally meet at the next court hearing. But in an unexplained move, the plaintiff's lawyer has removed Director Stanicic from the list of witnesses, and replaced him with the Head of Global PR for the Croatian National Tourist Board. 

I do wonder if we will ever meet.

What does all this mean? Who knows, but to be continued... 

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See you in January, 2022 for the next installment - the latest hearing in the Croatia, Full of Uhljebs case, and my next eagerly anticipated coffee with legendica Vanja. 

You can follow the latest from Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit here.  

Wednesday, 24 November 2021

24Sata Reports on Lawsuit against Paul Bradbury by Croatian National Tourist Board

November 25, 2021 - I am very grateful to 24Sata for taking an interest in - and reporting on - the latest installment of my ongoing lawsuits from the Croatian National Tourist Board.

Monday was back in court at the third attempt. After twice double booking - leading to the case being postponed twice in May, the lawyer for the Croatian National Tourist Board did manage to show up, arriving with his suitcase halfway through the hearing. Much more on that in the latest edition of Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit shortly, as soon as I get a minute to reflect and report on what was an epic day in the twilight zone of Croatian justice. While you wait for that, here is the report from my kolegica, Laura Siprak from 24Sata. 

The Croatian Tourist Board sues Paul Bradbury for HRK 50,000 for damaging their reputation: 'They want me to apologize. What for?'

After being postponed twice, the first hearing was held in the CNTB lawsuit against an English blogger who has been living in Croatia for years. His lawyer says this is a textbook example of a SLAPP lawsuit

The Croatian National Tourist Board is suing a Briton living in Croatia, Paul Bradbury, for damaging their reputation. The first hearing was held on Monday, and they are asking a compensation of 50,000 kunas.

- One web portal asked me to compare the campaign of the Croatian Tourist Board during the pandemic with other countries, specifically Greece. I did that and explained my opinion. I pointed out a few issues around the ‘corona free’ campaign. More precisely, I wrote in my response that Greece came out with a strong message and a clear plan, and at the same time when you look at the foreign media, you see that Croatia is sending very bad messages. When it was announced that Croatia was opening their borders for 10 countries, it was an automatic message to all the other countries that they were not welcome. The Irish Times wrote that their citizens cannot come to Croatia, which was not true, but the Croatian government has created this confusion - Bradbury says.

He first came to Croatia as a tourist, bought a house in Jelsa, where he fell in love and got married. There he founded the portal Total Croatia News, through which he promotes tourism to foreign citizens, and since English is one of the most widespread languages, foreigners who come to Croatia often seek advice and recommendations there. In addition to promoting all that is good, he also warns of what he considers to be the mistakes made by the Croatian Tourist Board. He made the criticism, but he also contacted the Irish Times when they wrote the incorrect information that their citizens could not enter Croatia. The article was corrected within an hour after his intervention.

- It is insane that the article with my statement is still online, and as far as I know the CNTB did not ask for a correction from that portal, nor did they sue the journalist or that portal. Just me - Bradbury tells us and adds: - I never thought this was possible, that someone would sue me for my opinion, based on the evidence, that offended noone. It’s insane.

His lawyer, Vanja Juri

, says that this is a textbook example of a SLAAP lawsuit. The Ministry of Culture and Media defines SLAAP lawsuits as strategic lawsuits against public participation, ie proceedings initiated by powerful individuals in the society, aimed at intimidating and silencing critical voices in society, in matters of public interest that are contrary to the interests of plaintiffs.

- The lawsuit is obviously completely unfounded, and I think that much is clear to anyone who has dealt, at least minimally, with the topics of freedom of expression. It is an attempt to intimidate a man who is intensively and very successfully engaged in tourism, who has expressed his opinion on what the CNTB has been doing. That is why we are convinced that this is a textbook example of the so-called SLAPP lawsuit. Paul Bradbury has, while answering the question of the journalist of the Index.hr portal, politely and reasonably brought the marketing strategy of the Croatian Tourist Board into question, ie the actions of a governmental body. I think that there is no doubt that this is the right of every member of the public and every media - Juri

said.

Their defense is based on the fact that the CNTB cannot prove that Bradbury did something illegal, because he claims that expressing his opinion does not violate any laws.

- Paul will primarily defend himself by proving that the basic preconditions prescribed by law when suing someone for damages have not been met. The plaintiff, for example, has not and will not be able to prove that Paul did something unlawful, given that, in legal theory and case law, it is quite clear that by giving his statement, he did not violate any law, but exercised his constitutional right to freedom of expression, specifically to express an opinion on the actions and procedures of public authorities - says the lawyer.

Bradbury made the statement considered disputable by the CNTB on June 12, 2020, and the lawsuit was delivered to his home address in October of that year. However, the first hearing was held on Monday, November 22, 2021, because the law firm representing the CNTB twice postponed.

- Paul's rights were not violated in the proceedings, nor do I expect that they will be, that is what, after all, us lawyers are for. However, several hearings have so far been unjustifiably postponed, at the request of the CNTB, which can be treated as a delay in the proceedings, which, in this type of proceedings, certainly does not favor the defendants - concludes Juri

.

Bradbury also wanted to record the hearing, in order to broadcast it on his portal, but the request was denied.

- The first hearing was supposed to be on May 3rd, but they asked for an postponement with the explanation that their lawyer had accidentally arranged something else at the time. It was then postponed to May 31st. Couple of days before that, on May 26, I sent a request for media coverage of the hearing, but it was denied, explaining that their lawyer had again accidentally made an appointment at the same time, so the hearing was postponed to this Monday. The judge did not allow another postponement, so the hearing was held. They also had three months to give additional evidence that I had damaged the reputation of the CNTB, which they did not do. Their lawyer came to the hearing with three folders filled with evidence, but the judge rejected those because they broke the deadline, and all this 'evidence' has nothing to do with the statement for which they are suing me - Bradbury explains.

He is convinced that the lawsuit was filed solely because of ego. - I was told today that they would withdraw the lawsuit if I apologized. What for? I will not apologize for the stating my opinions based on facts and for preventing foreign media from disseminating information that is inaccurate and negatively affects Croatian tourism. I didn't do anything wrong, they are only doing this because of their egos, as I sometimes criticize them - he concludes.

This is not the only lawsuit CNTB brought against Bradbury. After this lawsuit, they sued him for toying around with their slogan 'Croatia full of life' and wrote 'Croatia full of uhljebs'. They are suing him for 50,000 kunas for that as well, although in that satirical creation he hasn’t even mentioned the CNTB.

We reached out to the Croatian National Tourist Board, asking them what they thought was disputable in the statements given by Bradbury.

- Since the court proceedings are ongoing, at this time we are not able to provide any details of it. However, we remind you that these are two proceedings, one for damaging the CNTB reputation by presenting incorrect and untrue allegations in the article, while the other proceedings are for damaging the reputation of the CNTB by unauthorized and illegal use of the official Croatian tourism logo, used by the CNTB and the system of tourist boards in the promotion of Croatian tourism, and which is additionally protected according to the regulations on intellectual property protection and registered as a trademark with the State Intellectual Property Office of the Republic of Croatia - CNTB says, adding that they were not obligated to require permission by the Tourist Council to bring these law suits, but that it was discussed in the meetings and they cannot produce the minutes.

- Regarding the lawsuit itself, it was initiated by the Croatian National Tourist Board, in accordance with the Law on Tourist Boards and the Promotion of Croatian Tourism, represented by a director who is also the only legally authorized person to represent. Although your allegation that any lawsuits must be considered by the Tourist Council is incorrect, the Council meetings where this topic was discussed are actually part of the ongoing proceedings and for this reason we are not able to submit the requested material.

We also contacted the Minister of Tourism and Sports Nikolina Brnjac, who is also the president of the Tourist Council. - The President of the Tourist Council has not been sent anything for approval in this matter, so we ask you to contact the Croatian Tourist Board for any information – the Ministry says.

 

Thursday, 8 July 2021

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: Entering the 3rd Calendar Year

July 8, 2021 - Part 2 of Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, documenting the speedy Croatian justice system with two lawsuits against the TCN CEO from the Croatian National Tourist Board. 

Athough it is not pleasant being sued, I must confess that my first experience has been fascinating. And while I don't necessarily look forward to trekking to the Zagreb Municipal Court, the blogging material and post-court coffee with the legendica that is my lawyer, Vanja Juric, more than make up for it. 

For those looking to get up to speed, here is the first part of Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, documenting the wheels of justice turning (if they are turning at all) in two lawsuits against me from the Croatian National Tourist Board. Both were issued almost a year ago, one for an article that I didn't write on a portal that I don't own that quoted me, the other for a satirical use of the national tourist board logo, which I posted on my private Facebook account, without comment, for about 3 days last summer. Total damages sought for defamation - some 100,000 kuna. 

Interestingly, the article I didn't write on the portal I do not own is still live, while the Facebook photo accumulated 316 likes and 20 comments at the time, and was totally and utterly forgotten until the ensuing lawsuit became public. It was then plastered over the television news and many portals, having far more impact than the original innocent post. Scales of defamation work in mysterious ways in Croatia. 

I wasn't really sure what to expect from the lawsuits, and I listened a little disbelievingly when friends said they would go on for years. Both cases seemed pretty simple to me, surely we could sort them out in an afternoon?

As I mentioned last time, the speed of Croatian justice seems to be somewhat linked to the ability of Croatian lawyers to get organised. 

My first hearing (for the logo) was on April 10. As I prepared for my first court case at the tender age of 52, Vanja was informed by the prosecution lawyer that he had filed a last minute motion, which she had not been a copy of. The reason for the late sumission was that the lawyer had apparently been in hosptial for the previous 7 days and could not do it any earlier. It was only later I learned that the law firm, of which he is a partner, has no less than 50 lawyers, all of them who were presumably too busy - or too ill - to submit the motion in time. 

The hearing took three minutes, and the judge declared that the new evidence should be considered, and that we should all reconvene on July 7. 

Meanwhile, the lawsuit for the article I didn't write on the portal I do not own, which was scheduled for May 3 was postponed until May 31, as the same lawyer was double booked that day.

On May 31, the rescheduled hearing was again postponed, this time until November. The reason? You guessed it - the same laywer had double booked that day. 

And so to this week's hearing. Half expecting the lawyer to be double booked again (and the other 49 lawyers in the firm unavailable), I was not even convinced that the hearing would take place. But we heard nothing to the contrary, and off I went to the court, ready for what would surely be another fascinating look into the world of Croatian justice. 

The prosecuting lawyer - who is always friendly and polite - was there before us, two minutes before the hearing began. He explained to Vanja that he had a last minute motion to submit, but that he had not been able to do so becuase he had been abroad for medical tests for the last 15 days. There is apparently nobody else of the 49 lawyers in the office who can take on such a complicated case as mine (what is so complicated, really?). Vanja refused to accept the copy of the last-minute motion, and we entered the courtroom. 

As the prosecution lawyer tried to file the last minute motion, the judge refused to accept it, stating that such motions had to be filed electronically. The lawyer then exercised his apparent right to read out the motion in court, so that the stenographer could document it.

It was pages long, but did not seem to say anything new. As the lawyer read through his mask, I marvelled at just how much money this whole procedure was costing - money which could, and should, be being used for tourism promotion. And then I caught sight of the case file with my name on. It was literally the biggest file I have ever seen - about 15-20 cm of papers. Were most of them blank and the size of the file there to intimidate? Or were all the pages relevant to the case, in which case how much money was being spent on this?

The judge listened to Vanja's reply, then decided it was time to move on to the next stage of the case - in January, 2022! 

At that hearing - if it is not postponed due to double booking or last minute motions filed almost straight from hospital -  apparently two people will be asked to present their evidence pertaining to the case. For the prosecution, Kristjan Stanicic, Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board, and for the defence, little old me. It promises to be an interesting day (if it is not postponed again), and I am looking forward to it for several reasons. Among them is the chance to finally meet the Croatian National Tourist Board director. something which has not happened so far in his five years in office. 

So there we are. Timeframe of Lawsuit 1

August 2020 - post on Facebook

October 2020 - lawsuit served

April 2021 - First hearing, lasting 3 minutes and postponed until July due to last minute motion filed.

July 2021 - Another last minute motion filed. The case is postponed until the following year.

January 2022 - The next scheduled installment. Stay tuned. 

Meanwhile, here is the timeline of Lawsuit 2, for the article I didn't write on the portal I do not own.

June 2020 - Article appears online (and remains online today).

August 2020 - Lawsuit is served.

May 3, 2021 - First hearing is postponed, as prosecution lawyer has double booked.

May 31, 2021 - Rearranged first hearing is postponed, as prosection lawyer has double booked again.  

November 2021 - The rearranged, rearranged first hearing for the case on the article which appeared online 17 months earlier. 

And so, there we have it. The wheels of Croatian justice in action. 

And so now I do well believe my friends when they say these cases will take years. Assuming the January hearing does take place, the judge can then call expert witnesses for both sides (CNTB have named two) at a date presumably several months after January.  Then I assume there will be a verdict at some point, then an appeal, then possibly an appeal to a higher Croatian court, followed by a trip to Strasbourg, where there is precedent for both these cases. 

Years of fun. 

To be continued in November, 2021. Unless, of course, there are double bookings, last minute motions, or other unforseen circumstances. 

Your prediction for the year that these cases will be concluded? 

Thursday, 27 May 2021

Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: 50 Lawyers, No Secretary, No Hearing

May 27, 2021 - Now I know why Croatian justice takes forever - there is a shortage of legal secretaries. Welcome to Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, ongoing commentary on the elusive plaintiff, the Croatian National Tourist Board against the defendent, Paul David Raymond Bradbury. 

When I decided to start a section on TCN called Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Story, I really didn't think I would be writing about lawsuits filed against me. 

Little did I know that being sued in Croatia would be as fascinating as this. And so far, I have only spent 3 minutes inside a courtroom. I knew this would take some time, but I am genuinely stunned at how the Croatian judicial system is working (I use the last term with some reservation). There is also very little information online in English about the process of being sued, so I thought it might be a useful public service to document my cases. Perhaps someone who is in a position of power can intervene. Not in my case, I am happy to defend myself on both lawsuits, especially with the legal legendica Vanja Juric at my side. By intervention, I mean that the more publicity this farcical system gets, perhaps someone will step in to stop wasting people's time and public money. 

Have you poured yourself a large glass of wine? Let's begin.  

On June 12, 2020, an article appeared online in the Croatian media. Part of the article featured me, including some quotes. The article was written by someone else on a portal I have no official connection to. In October, I received a lawsuit form the Croatian National Tourist Board, seeking 50,000 kuna in damages for alleged defamation in that article. The journalist who wrote the story was not sued. The portal which published the lawsuit was not sued. No request for unpublishing or a retraction was made. Indeed, the article is still live on the Internet and you can see it here

A couple of weeks later last October, I received another blue envelope from the Zagreb court. Another lawsuit from the Croatian National Tourist Board, also for 50,000 kuna. This time, the lawsuit was related to uploading a satirical version of the tourist board logo, without comment. 

I will confess to being a little intimidated. At least until dear Vanja assured me that all would be alright. Probably the most effective lawyer in media law, she has her hands full dealing with lawsuits with the likes of Index.hr, so this was a tiny case for her. 

My first hearing was set for April 10. This being Croatia, the second case (logo satire) was heard first. In we went, my first lawsuit in 52 years. It was really happening. 

There were five of us in total - the judge, the CNTB lawyer, Vanja, myself and the stenographer. Three minutes later, it was all over. 

Vanja started with a couple of logical arguments why the case should be thrown out, but then the judge informed us that CNTB had filed another motion the previous evening. Such a late filing, in fact, that my lawyer was not given a copy before the hearing. Apparently, the reason for the late filing was due to the fact that the CNTB lawyer had been in hospital the previous week.

It was only later that I learned that the law firm consists of 6 partners and 50 lawyers. I hope that they were not all unwell for the whole week. 

The judge ruled that this new motion had to be considered, and we rescheduled for July. 

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I actually didn't mind too much. Vanja is a very cool - but extremely busy - lady, but we agreed that we would have pints after each hearing. Thanks to these lawsuits, I will have more quality Vanja time than I could have imagined. Thanks for that, guys. 

May 3 was destined to be an historic day. At 09:40, the first hearing in the first lawsuit - defamation for the article I didn't write on the portal I don't own. Then at 10:00, the launch of our Total Croatia portal in Dubrovnik, a project directly inspired by these lawsuits.

While the Total Croatia launch went ahead as scheduled (see the press conference with Croatian and English subtitles), things did not go so smoothly with the lawsuit. Four days before the hearing, Vanja received a request form the CNTB lawyer,requesting a delay in the hearing as he was double-booked. When Vanja refused, the court ruled that the hearing would be rescheduled until May 31. 

The law firm must be incredibly busy and successful, as none of the other 49 lawyers were in a position to take the appointed lawyer's place. Given that I knew the date of the hearing three months ago, so too presumably did the CNTB lawyer. The only possible explanation for the double booking, therefore, must be that the firm has 50 lawyers and no secretary to manage the booking.

Guess what date it is on Monday?

May 31! The rescheduled court case for the defamation case for the article which is still online a year later, written by someone else on a portal I don't own (I was the only one sued). In rather exciting news, I learned that if I applied in advance, the court could give me permission to photograph and even video the proceedings. How cool would that be?

I fired off my application this very morning. The response was not long in coming: Curiously - and I am sure it was a coincidence, as I am a big believer in coincidence after many years dealing with life here - Vanja got an email at almost exactly the same moment. 

My email informed me that my application had been denied because. my case had been postponed AGAIN. I messaged Vanja to ask if she knew anything. 

Her email was to inform us that the CNTB lawyer had double-booked again, and so the hearing would have to be rescheduled. 

You see the problem with not having a secretary? These double bookings seem to be a big issue. I assume that none of the other 49 lawyers in the firm were available (or perhaps they were all in hospital), and so we get to do this again on - wait for it... 

November 22. 6 months from now, and almost 18 months since the article which is still online went online. 

Having said 6 months, I must confess that I did not check with Vanja if that was November 22, 2021, or perhaps 2026. 

And so there you are, dear readers, fully updated on the current situation. I must confess a touch of sadness at the latest postponement, as i had been looking forward to morning pints with Vanja. And we have much to discuss since these lawsuits were brought up in the Croatian Parliament by another legendica, Centar MP Marijana Puljak. You can read more in You Promised Not to Sue Me, PM: Will You Also Back Anti-SLAPP Bill?

On the other hand, I now have at least two more articles for the series, Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Affair. One in July and one in November. The publicity that this case has generated for our new Total Croatia portal in many languages, is literally priceless - have you checked out Total Croatia yet? 

Croatian justice, the blogging gift that keeps on giving. Stay tuned for more updates in our Croatian Bureaucracy, a Love Affair section

 

 

 

 

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