Wednesday, 2 February 2022

PM Says Parliamentary Committee Discussed Ways to Reduce Hate Speech

ZAGREB, 2 Feb 2022 - PM Andrej Plenković said on Wednesday upon the conclusion of a session of the parliament's National Security Committee, that discussions included creating an atmosphere in society that would reduce hate speech. 

Discussions were motivated by the 2020 attack on the government headquarters by Danijel Bezuk, which was condemed as a terrorist attack.

"We discussed the terrorist attack of October 2020. Everyone agreed that it was a terrorist attack and an unacceptable act, and we discussed ways to create an atmosphere in society that will reduce hate speech which, when it evolves, unfortunately can lead to cases like this one," Plenković told reporters, adding that there were not many dissonant voices during the debate.

Policy of tolerance has changed atmosphere on political scene

Speaking of ways to reduce hate speech, Plenković said political stakeholders should think about whether they contribute to polarisation and radicalisation, adding that "some debates in the parliament, too, contribute to that atmosphere that later spreads to some media and social networks."

Plenković said that he had been pursuing a policy of tolerance, inclusiveness, dialogue and respect for six years, pointing in that regard to his position that ethnic minorities should be part of the parliamentary majority, feel well, and for their rights to be respected.

He added that with such policy he had changed the atmosphere on the political scene, compared to the time before he became prime minister.

"Think back a little, also when the HDZ and its political philosophy, rhetoric and moves are concerned, I think the differences are visible and do not need much description," he said.

Asked who was intolerant, he said "There are many", but would not elaborate who he was referring to, telling reporters they knew that better than he did.

Plenković said today that he did not tell the State Attorney, or the national police director, that he was dissatisfied with their work regarding the attack on the government headquarters, which was mentioned in December.

"When I saw the reports, there were many questions that I thought remained unanswered and I said so last summer to the state attorney, the police director and the minister of the interior. They said today that they were still working on the case," Plenković said, noting that the case was still not closed.

"It was an unprecedented case, a terrorist act committed by a 22-year-old man, it was purposeful, it caused fear, violence was used and it was of a political nature. Those are elements of a terrorist act and that requires a thorough analysis of the phenomenon of hate speech and those who indoctrinate people as young as that man," he said.

Plenković did not specify who had indoctrinated Bezuk, noting that "there is a lot of very useful and telling information in the report."

The PM also would not say if some political camps were behind the incident, saying only that "things are quite recognisable."

He dismissed speculation that his special advisor on security Robert Kopal had done some analyses, saying that reports were made by the institutions working on the case - the Office of the State attorney, police and the Security-Intelligence Agency (SOA).

Reopening St. Mark's Square a matter of security assessment

Asked if there were plans to reopen to public St. Mark's Square, the seat of the parliament and government headquarters, Plenković said it was a matter of security assessment.

"I do not know of any other country where state institutions were as accessible as we were until that moment," he said.

Those who want to stage a peaceful protest in St. Mark's Square can do so today. "A protest is announced, the gate is opened and the protesters go inside, they protest, sing, play loud music and that's all right. Except for walking around, everything else is allowed," he said.

Today's session of the parliament's National Security Committee was attended, along with the prime minister, also by State Attorney Zlata Hrvoj Šipek, Police Director Nikola Milina and SOA head Danijel Markić.

For more, check out our politics section.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Users to Be Fined for Hate Speech in Their Comments, Not Media – Jutarnji Lis

ZAGREB, 24 July, 2021 - The final electronic media bill has acknowledged the criticisms that were made, so users will be punished for hate speech in their comments, not the media where the comments are generated, Jutarnji List daily said on Saturday.

Compared with the first draft, which was widely criticised last winter both by media professionals and the general public, the final bill brings several significant changes, and the attempt to crack down on hate speech on web portals is likely to draw the most attention.

The Culture and Media Ministry has accepted the criticisms made by journalists, editors and media owners, so exorbitant fines will not be paid by the media but users whose comments break the law.

The first draft of the bill said the electronic publication provider was accountable for all content, including content generated by users. That meant that the media would have been held fully accountable and could have been brutally fined, including for racist comments and those inciting to violence, comments that are mostly anonymous. The envisaged fines ranged from HRK 100,000 to one million.

The ministry changed the article in question, so that in future the real writers of those comments will be held to account. In return, media owners, if they wish to avoid fines, will have to completely change the rules of the game for their readers. They will have to register users and warn them in a clear and easily noticeable way about commenting rules and breaches of regulations.

Jutarnji List said the government could endorse the final bill at next week's meeting.

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Friday, 16 April 2021

Human Rights in Croatia 2020 Overview: Serbs, Roma People, and LGBTQ Hate Speech Targets

April 16, 2021-  The Human Rights in Croatia 2020 Overview report by Human rights house Zagreb shows hate speech and poor living conditions of Serb returnees and Roma people still being problematic. The judicial system and the lack of a legal frame for civil society development remain problematic too.

In a battle against the Coronavirus, many agree and fear that human rights were put in second place, triggering the debate of security vs. liberty and justification of limiting movement, work, etc.

But human rights and their respect in Croatia was an issue, long before Covid-19. As Jutarnji List warns, the situation is not good. 

Croatia doesn't have a defined politics of making a supportive environment for the civic society development. Citizen participation in decision making is still relatively weak and the judicial system is a special problem," says Jutarnji List referring to the new report by Human Rights House in Zagreb titled „Human Rights in Croatia: 2020 Overview“.

Regarding the judicial issue, a specific example can be found in the ever-controversial  "Za Dom Spremni!"(For the Homeland Ready) salute which is recognised as a fascist salute and punishable by law but it's tolerated as part of the song „Čavoglave“ by Marko Perković Thompson and can frequently be heard during his concerts both by the singer and the audience.

„Circumstance that the salute is part of the song doesn't change the fact that it's an ustasha (Croatian fascist) salute that symbolizes criminal Naci-fascist ideology and is the violation of article 39 of Croatian constitution that prohibits any call or encouragement on national, racial or religious hatred or any form of intolerance“, continues Jutarnji List.

Still present in public space, hate speech in Croatia is also very alive on the Internet, with the Serb LGBTQ community and Roma people being the prime targets. As Jutarnji reports, last year's research show this as well as the lack of appropriate response. 

„Children and adolescences do not learn enough about human rights, equality, and solidarity, given that civil education is conducted as one of six intercourse themes in elementary and high-schools. Such approach to civil education does not secure enough time in the curriculum for quality development of civil competence of pupils“, concluded for Jutarnji List Human Rights House in Zagreb.

Educational segregation for Roma people, isolated Serb returnees migrant treatment controversies, C+ grade for LGBTQ travelers

The article also adds that Roma people in Croatia are still facing many obstacles in achieving their rights, which include employment, access to services, and adequate living standards, and there is still segregation in the education system too.

Furthermore, many Serb returnees live in undeveloped rural areas, which are isolated and offer poor living conditions. Additionally, they still struggle to achieve their asset rights, and their possession is still tangible to devastation.



When it comes to LGBTQ rights, as TCN previously reported, Croatia „has an index of 188 points and a grade C+ from most safe to highest dangerous places (A to F), placing it among the first third of the best countries in the world in terms of LGBTQ+ safety“. There are controversies regarding the migrants' treatment on which we recently reported on too.

Learn more about Croatia's global rankings and many more fun facts about the country on our TC page.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

Social Workers File Charges Against Social Media Activists For Hate Speech

ZAGREB, 13 April, 2021 - Almost 200 social workers from all over Croatia have filed criminal charges against the founder of the 'Save Me' civil initiative, Jelena Veljača, and actress Nataša Janjić Medančić, claiming that their comments on social media incited violence and hate against social workers.

Lawyer Klaudio Čurin filed the criminal charges with the State Attorney's Office on behalf of the  social workers.

In a statement to Hina, Čurin said that he was given a power of attorney on behalf of more than 150 social workers, whose number has in the meantime increased to more than 200.

"I am getting calls from all over Croatia, even from the islands," said Čurin, who believes that with their comments on social networks, the two activists committed a crime against public order - public incitement to violence and hate.

The legal action has been supported by the Chamber of Social Workers, which has called on other professional chambers to show their support. 

The chamber said that a few days ago the spontaneous initiative had emerged among social workers to file criminal charges against Veljača and Janjić Medančić.

After the recent violent death of a two-and-a-half-year-old girl in Nova Gradiška, who was taken from her foster family and returned to her birth parents, Veljača called for those responsible at the local welfare centre to be dismissed.

Janjić Medančić joined Veljača with her comments, which have been erased in the meantime, in which they referred to social workers as people feathering their own nests and murderers. Social workers responded by saying that their comments contributed to an atmosphere of lynching and that the two were not competent to discuss that topic.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.

Tuesday, 13 April 2021

The Serb National Council (SNV): Historical Revisionism, Hate Speech and Violence Against Ethnic Serbs in 2020

ZAGREB, 13 April, 2021 - The Serb National Council (SNV) presented its annual report on Tuesday, warning of cases of hate speech and violence targeting ethnic Serbs, including physical assaults, threats and property destruction, and expressing concern about a slow and inadequate reaction from the state authorities.

The SNV said that historical revisionism and views denying the legacy of the anti-fascist struggle during the Second World War were not rare and were mostly directed against the Serbs, resulting in hatred and violence.

SNV president Milorad Pupovac noted that the legislative framework included provisions that should prevent such manifestations, but they were not applied systematically and uniformly. He cited inconsistent court practice in the treatment of the Ustasha salute "For the Homeland Ready."

Pupovac said that the legislative changes were not sufficient if not supported by appropriate education and media policies. He said that other people too were targeted by hate speech and historical revisionism.

"Rudeness, intolerance and hatred are the three worrying types of discourse  when it comes to any differences, opposed views or identity. They can be stopped only if we fight for tolerance and discussion," Pupovac said.

The author of the report, Tihomir Ponoš, said that the findings were similar to those from previous years, but that the number of attacks was lower than in 2019, possibly partly due to the coronavirus outbreak.

A total of 214 cases of historical revisionism, hate speech and violence against Serbs were recorded in 2020, compared to 400 in 2019 and 381 to 2018.

The most frequent were insults and threats made against Serbs and Serb institutions in Croatia (50 cases), hate speech and ethnic intolerance in the media (3), ethnic intolerance and historical revisionism in statements by public figures (35), graffiti and insignia expressing hate speech and ethnic intolerance (30), physical assaults (21), hate speech and ethnic intolerance at sporting events (8), damaged or stolen property of individuals and Serb institutions (8), damaged or destroyed anti-fascist monuments (7), damaged or destroyed bilingual boards (3).

The SNV also expressed concern about a growing number of ethnic-based physical assaults in the eastern town of Vukovar, and the spraying of Ustasha insignia on the walls of public buildings and monuments.

For more about politics in Croatia, follow TCN's dedicated page.


Thursday, 29 October 2020

Vanja Juric: 'Hate Speech is Consequence of Frustration, Poverty, Insufficient Education'

October 29, 2020 - Leading Croatian lawyer Vanja Juric is interviewed on N1 on the subject of hate speech in society.

Vanja Juric, a lawyer who often deals with court cases involving hate speech, explained to N1 the causes of this phenomenon in Croatia, the consequences for society, as well as how society can resist this phenomenon.

Juric said that hate speech as a phenomenon is not the basis of radicalization in society.

"I think a lot more care has to be taken that hate speech is a consequence, not a cause. It is a consequence of the general social climate, frustrations that have accumulated over the years, probably also poverty, insufficient education, etc.," she said.

Should hate speech be regulated by law?

"Of course it should. Should we insist that the regulation improves if it's possible? Of course it should. But we need to start from a starting point, from the fact that it is a consequence of the social climate that has been going on for a long time, I would say, and now it is further intensified by the crisis and pandemic, and in parallel, we should discuss laws. Laws and additional legal regulation cannot and must not be the only means in this struggle," said Vanja Juric.

Given her experience in hate speech trials in the courts, the Newsroom presenter was interested in how difficult it is to prove hate speech in court.

"Hate speech is regulated in different forms in different laws. When we talk about hate speech in criminal law, it can be underlined as a crime of incitement to violence and hatred.

In my experience, according to some of the cases I have been involved in, this is extremely difficult at the moment, because to prove that something constitutes a call to violence and hatred, the direct intent of the perpetrator must be proven. In the case of which I have direct knowledge, it was a very severe hate speech directed at a journalist, the State Attorney's Office did not initiate proceedings because it found that such speech, although it had elements of hate speech, in that particular case was not intentional, rather it was brought out in affect, under the influence of alcohol, the perpetrator had no intention,” she illustrated with an example from practice.

"Freedom of the media and expression is protected by the Constitution. Hate speech is not covered by freedom of expression, and no Croatian or international act would take it under freedom of speech," she said.

She added:

"Hate speech can have expressive consequences for freedom of expression."

To what extent is politics responsible for radicalization in terms of the level of public discourse?

"I would say that politics is very responsible, without any dilemma. For at least 10 years we have been encouraging divisions in society from the political level and for political reasons, and when situations like lately happen, then we wonder where hate speech comes from, where radicalization in society," Juric said.

She pointed out that politicians are the ones who should show by example what the level of productive communication is:

"Thereby they would accomplish a lot more than with the laws."

She said that the only right way for civic education is, first and foremost, to sensitize young people:

"As I said that hate speech is not a cause but a consequence, so it is a question of education how we will teach children inclusion, tolerance, and all issues that are important for productive and useful public communication. People should be encouraged to participate in discussions on all important public topics, but one has to know how to do it and I think education is a very correct answer, in addition to all the other means that have to be used."

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Hate Speech in Croatian Media Growing Stronger

ZAGREB, October 10, 2020 - A comprehensive survey of Croatian media, which in some aspects spans over a period of more than six years and covers more than 14 million published items, reveals the presence of hate speech in them that is growing on a daily basis.

Marko Poljak, Jelena Hadzic and Masa Martinic of Newton Technologies Adria, which specialises in technologies that identify hate speech in Croatian, Slovenian and Serbian, and Presscut, a media monitoring company, conducted this comprehensive analysis of the media content in terms of the presence of hate speech and the events that encouraged it, and they published it in the latest issue of the In Media Res magazine.

The survey focused on two types of content, the first being media items in the period from early 2013 to the end of April 2019. More than 14 million individual items were found, in print media, radio and television news programmes and on news portals, and they included 50,724 items containing hate speech.

The second type of content were comments on social networks. A total of 72,000 comments, posted in the period from early April to early July 2019, were analysed and among them were 1,012 comments with unacceptable speech, which accounts for 1.4% of the comments.


Facebook post of HDZ MP's son encouraged most hate comments

The most media items containing hate speech were published on web portals, 0.58%, and the least on radio, 0.04%, and their total number grew by the year. The number of items containing hate speech, registered in only four months of 2019, exceeded the total number of such items in 2013, the first year of the survey.

The largest increase as well as the largest number of hate comments was recorded in 2016, and the increase in the number of such comments on web portals exceeded 300%, shows the survey.

In a period of one year, starting on 1 May 2018, only one day, Christmas, was without hate speech. The average daily number of posts containing hate speech was 29.6, and the largest number, as many as 287 items with unacceptable content, was recorded on 9 January 2019.

Media posts containing hate speech are often connected with certain events. The authors of the survey note that most posts, as many as 523, were connected with an insulting message Ivan Djakic, the son of HDZ MP Josip Djakic, posted on his Facebook wall on the occasion of Serb Orthodox Christmas, January 9.

A week later, Vukovar mayor Ivan Penava's statement drew 235 posts containing hate speech and he was criticised for causing a "spiral of hate speech".

Penava said at the time that Vukovar is "the epicentre of a continued, creeping Great Serbian aggression" and showed at a news conference a video of a group of local Serb students sitting while the national anthem was played at a football match.


Facebook posts most numerous, YouTube posts account for largest share

The largest number of comments were collected on Facebook, 58,847, and 801 or 1.34% contained unacceptable language. YouTube comments accounted for the largest share of unacceptable comments in the total number of comments, of 3.33%.

Most unaccaptable comments were provoked by posts related to Serbs, 12,837. The least comments with unacceptable speech were prompted by posts that referred to Roma, 1,448.

The largest number of individual unacceptable comments referred to Bosnians, 175, and the largest share of negative comments in the total number of comments collected referred to Muslims and Jews, 2.25 and 2.22% respectively.

Negative comments about migrants accounted for the smallest share in the total number of comments, 0.54%, while the average share of negative comments for all groups was 1.41%.

The largest number of negative comments refer to ethnicity, 587, and religion, 337.

The question of why certain groups attract a smaller or bigger number of unacceptable comments was not the subject of this survey. The answer to that question requires a deeper analysis of the items published, the related events and context, and possibly persons who posted comments, the authors of the survey conclude.


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Saturday, 13 June 2020

Milanovic: Zagreb Banner Is Hate Speech

ZAGREB, June 13, 2020 - President Zoran Milanovic said on Saturday that a banner displayed in Zagreb which insulted and incited to ethnic violence against Serb women and children constituted hate speech and not a misdemeanour against public order and that such things should be criminalised.

"As for the model of punishment, such things should be regulated much better legally. This thing yesterday wasn't a misdemeanour against public order and peace, that was hate speech. And as long as the police treat that as a misdemeanour, such things will happen," Milanovic told reporters.

He added that neither the police nor the courts were to blame as they had no other legislation.

"The law is what it is. In my opinion, such things should be criminalised. This is no misdemeanour. Which doesn't mean that every criminal offense should result in imprisonment, but it's a criminal offense because its level of danger, violence and the damage it can cause is such that it deserves bigger and more precise attention by the legislator."

The president said the law should more clearly define fascist and Nazi salutes and clearly describe such hate speech as well as punish it because that would make the job of the police and the courts easier.

He said it was good that the state responded in this case because it was best if the state-protected all citizens by a clear, transparent, and recognisable protection system, including law enforcement.

As for what the banner displayed by some football fans said, the president said they would probably realise very soon that not even one percent of Croats supported what they wrote.

Election debates are good

Speaking of debates ahead of elections, Milanovic said those between representatives of the strongest political parties were a good thing. "It's good that they are held, that one can hear and see who are the people competing for the most responsible and most difficult job in the state, that of prime minister."

He said electoral rolls would show if he voted in the July 5 parliamentary election, adding that they should be public since making them so would not undermine the secrecy of the vote.

He once again called on as many citizens as possible to vote. "That's your right, it's not an obligation. It's not a duty and not voting is not punishable, and I won't tell you that you should vote so that later you don't complain about who is governing you... Just vote. I think that's better for the state."

Speaking of the ongoing campaign, the president said it brought nothing new but that he did not like it when "you're lying" was being said too much. "In this campaign, I may have heard it more than before," he said, adding that it was deplorable.

Milanovic said he was not for reducing the number of ministries as that changed nothing "if the positions and the people who go with those positions in terms of duties and scope of activity stay the same."

INA privatisation study unnecessary

Commenting on an investigation into former health minister Sinisa Varga (SDP) for allegedly commissioning unnecessary studies worth HRK 200,000, Milanovic said it was "a commendable effort." 

He went on to say that a study on the privatisation of the INA oil company "is unnecessary. Will anybody be criminally accountable for that? And for talks and negotiations during an election campaign when the government can't make any moves which have financial repercussions?"

He said that after parliament was dissolved and an election was called, nothing should be done that could have financial consequences. "Nothing, aside from paying people's wages and incentives if they are envisaged."

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Police Arrest Six Over Hate Speech Banner

ZAGREB, June 13, 2020 - Zagreb police are investigating six persons suspected of displaying an insulting banner that incited to ethnic violence against Serb women and children.

The criminal investigation is being conducted in cooperation with the Municipal Prosecutor's Office, police said on Saturday.

Police said on Friday they arrested four persons linked to the hate speech banner displayed in the Kustosija neighborhood on Thursday.

A photo appeared on social media on Friday morning, showing several Dinamo football club supporters holding a banner which said "We will f..k Serb women and children" and the letter "u" turned into the Ustasha symbol. They also displayed flags of the HOS militia from the 1991-1995 Homeland War.

The photo was posted on social media by the Serb National Council. Prime Minister Andrej  Plenkovic condemned it on the same day and Interior Minister Davor Bozinovic said police would solve any case of incitement to violence and ethnic intolerance.