Croatia: Democracy (?) And Fear Of Reprisals Culture

Glas hrvatske dijaspore – Australia
Croatian Diasporan Voice – Australia
Official logo

One of the crucial fundamentals for a well-functioning democracy lies in tight and transparent Complaints mechanisms across the board; for government, public and private business bodies operating in the state alike. This fact is indisputable in Western democracies and is guarded by state authorities with proverbial iron-fists. Freedom from harassment, reprisals and retaliation resulting from lodging complaints has been and continues to be a closely guarded staple for a functional democracy. Alarmingly not so in Croatia, and as evidenced by the manner of dealing with complaints to do with the President of Croatia Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic current official visit to Australia!


Croatia is riddled with legitimate fear of retaliation based on formal lodging of complaints, or even informal discussions in public among people. Fear of retaliation is rife today in Croatia just as it was in communist Yugoslavia, whether tied to complaints in the workplace or complaints about public administration and actions undertaken by state authorities. The culture of generating fear of reprisals in those who dare to complain is palpable on the streets of Croatia, as I have had the unwanted privilege to experience upon my recent visits to Croatia – no different to fear of reprisals that suffocated and oppressed freedom during the times of communist Yugoslavia.

The fear of reprisals culture in Croatia associated with complaints could be defined in an urban dictionary as

“suck it up, don’t report it or it could affect your career and your family”!

One of the recent of the important UN documents referring to the notion of democracy is the 2005 World Summit Outcome, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 24 October 2005, which provides that:
“… democracy is a universal value based on the freely expressed will of people to determine their own political, economic, social and cultural systems and their full participation in all aspects of their lives … We stress that democracy, development and respect for all human rights and fundamental freedoms are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.” UNGA Resolution 60/1 (24 October 2005) A/RES/60/1, paragraph 135. (PDF)

Evidently, practices in Croatia to do with individual participation in the development of democracy even via complaints mechanisms that should be available to citizens without the fear of reprisals are a far cry from any UN or even EU resolutions, affirmations, directions… Transparent and law-based mechanisms of accountability for limiting the inherent hazards of political subjection are set up in functional democracies to deal with the fear people justifiably have about the worst that their rulers can do. No doubt, complaints mechanisms are most important in the surrounds of preventing the dangers of political authority over a democratic nation.

The reality that directs to the fact that there is an alarming lack of complaints mechanisms free of fear of reprisals in Croatia evidences an urgent need to decommunise Croatia.

It is universally acknowledged that the right to freedom of expression (which includes complaints) is a foundational human right of the greatest importance. It is a linchpin of democracy, key to the protection of all human rights, and, fundamental to human dignity in its own right. At the same time, it is also universally recognised that it is not an absolute right but the one defined or restricted particularly by provisions of specific laws (e.g. defamation, media regulation and protection of national security) and every democracy has developed some system of limitations on freedom of expression, but not every nation monitors and “polices” effectively the associated practices on the ground, particularly installing independent resolutions of complaints made against a public body. Where the latter does not occur one can confidently conclude that political authority has the upper hand in every day lives of citizens.

My personal experience lately, regarding the apparent undermining of democratic principles to do with complaint handling by the Office of the President of Croatia has deepened my worry about the shocking state of democratic processes in Croatia. To explain and corroborate this concern with facts, I find it essential towards a hope for a better future to demonstrate here the deplorable practices in dealing with citizen complaints within the Office of the President of Croatia.

It so happens that the President of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic, has embarked upon a visit to Australia and New Zealand with official engagements within the Australian Croatian community starting in Sydney on 13th August 2017. A couple of weeks prior to that date her closest advisor and organisers of the visit arrived in Sydney some two weeks prior. Activities of reportedly non-transparent fundraising towards the President’s activities while on her official state visit to Australia and emerging details of grossly limited and unrepresentative of the diaspora public access to welcome her among the Australian Croatians – upon whom she has called many times to return to Croatia – had rightly and with best interests for Croatia emboldened the Australian based Association Croatian Diasporan Voice (Glas hrvatske dijaspore) to write a letter of complaint to president Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic ahead of her travel to Australia.

Suffice to say, the Association Croatian Diasporan Voice never received an acknowledgement of receipt of that letter, nor an indication that matters of complaint raised in the letter would duly (and hopefully independently) be investigated, nor asked to provide evidence and other corroboration for the complaints. However, reliable sources, Mr John Davor Ovcaric from Melbourne (a co-signatory of the letter to the President of Croatia), for example, reveal that he had been told that Mr Jozo Brkic, the president’s adviser and one of the organisers of her visiting the Croatian diaspora in Australia, who was one of those implicated in the letter of complaint to the president for apparent activities causing concern, had a copy of the very same letter, which he could only have been given by the president’s office, and showed it to people in Australia. This resulted in insults being waged against the letter writers from several junctures! The culture of fear of reprisals arising from making sincere complaints is alive in the Office of the President of Croatia. It is fortunate that those who wrote the letter of complaint live in Australia and cherish the value of contributing positively to freedom and democracy and are not discouraged by the foul lack of respect towards citizens evidently coming out of the Croatian President’s Office in this instance.

I am not saying here that the person/s implicated in a letter of complaint don’t have a right to see such a letter with view to contributing to a resolution of the complaint, but to use the letter with view to discrediting and insulting those who wrote the complaint and ignoring the writers of the complaint completely, is utterly despicable; on both the democracy and human sides. This is only one example of the vast pits of democracy in Croatia and showing them up is a duty of all citizens who strive to live in and contribute to full democracy. Those who know the beauty of democracy practiced via complaints mechanisms know or should know only too well that complaints may or may not be resolved to the complainant’s favour. The results of investigating specific matters in a complaint are an individual matter but the complaint’s mechanisms are a national one and of national importance. It would seem that the Office of the President of Croatia fails to recognise that fact of democracy and one wonders why? To protect the individuals serving as advisors, perhaps, regardless of the fact that their actions may be against the national interests of installing and practicing that which is a linchpin of democracy: freedom from fear of reprisals! Ina Vukic


Croatia: The Case Of Journalist Karolina Vidovic-Kristo And A Rude Awakening To Denial Of Human Rights


Karolina Vidovic-Kristo Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

Karolina Vidovic-Kristo
Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

One would think that the firing or hiring of a journalist (or any employee, anywhere) is a matter that is not newsworthy and that any breaches of employee’s rights in the process are private legal matters to pursue. However, when the firing or hiring alerts one to blatant breaches of human rights, to the fact that employer’s Codes of Ethics may be in violation of the country’s Constitution as well as UN convention on Human Rights then such cases are newsworthy and such cases require action with view to protecting democracy – especially when we are dealing with a major public information source such as state-run radio and television. And, when it comes to Croatia – a country still obviously in transition from communist totalitarian regime of former Yugoslavia, then the citizens’ vigilance upon the state of democratic processes is all the more justified and necessary.

On January 5, 2015, Croatian Radio & TV/HRT Director-General Goran Radman summarily dismissed journalist Karolina Vidovic Kristo, saying that her employment contract was terminated because she insulted and disparaged him by putting his name in the context of the former totalitarian Socialist Yugoslavia and mentioning his previous position as director of the then Television Zagreb.” Reportedly the dismissal was preceded by in-house debates about banning the reporter from participating in the Croatian Catholic Radio’s program “Why I believe”, and which ban the HRT management made in line with the HRT Code of Ethics.
To refresh the reader’s memory, Karolina Vidovic-Kristo came under a sharp public spotlight in early 2013 after she was suspended as the editor of a cancelled TV program  “Picture of Croatia” for the Croatian expatriate community over a broadcast entitled “Pedophilia as Basis of Sexual Education?” in which she expressed fears that Croatia’s school sex-education curriculum was being influenced by those who used pedophiles in research of child-sexuality/ Kinsey Report.
Freedom of expression is a fundamental human right, as recognised by article 19 of the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights/UN), and an integral element of a democratic society. As the European Court of Human Rights has expressed it:

Freedom of expression constitutes one of the essential freedoms of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and for every individual’s self-fulfillment … it is applicable not only to ‘information’ or ‘ideas’ that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also to those that offend, shock or disturb. Such are the demands of that pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no ‘democratic society’ (Case of Plon [Societe] v France ECHR 200 [2004]).
As noted above, although Croatia would be a signatory to the ICCPR, article 35 of the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia guarantees “respect for and legal protection of a person’s private and family life…” and in its article 38 it “guarantees freedom of thought and freedom of expression”, there are evidently no efforts being invested by the state authorities to ensure that the Code of Ethics implemented by the state-funded Croatian Radio & Television (HRT) reflect the implementation of commitment to these human rights.

In its statement dated 22 January 2015 the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rightson the summary dismissal of Karolina Vidovic Kristo and the responsibility of the Director in Chief Goran Radman for the situation at HRT”, the Committee agrees “that Karolina Vidovic-Kristo was right when she alleged that the Code of Ethics for journalists and creative staff and the General Rules were in violation of the Constitution of the RC and international standards of human rights, which also include the right to freedom of speech, opinion and religion”.

Article 47 of the Code of Ethics of HRT states that “Journalists and creative staff must be aware of the fact that everything they do, write or send to the public will be deemed to be an act of HRT”.

Therefore”, stated a Croatian journalist, “not only our religious convictions, but everything we do in public, all our free-time activities presented in the public, are deemed to be acts of HRT, although they are not presented in the name of HRT but in our own name. Indeed, this gives the impression that we are someone’s property.”
All those present at a meeting discussing the HRT Code of Ethics agreed that these positions taken in the Code of Ethics and the General Rules are a violation of fundamental human rights and the Constitution of the Republic of Croatia, and that in fact, “they deprive journalists of elements of their creativity and character.”

Indeed, one may go a step further and say there are cases in Croatia where a person is punished for expressing their personal opinion! And the case of Karolina Vidovic-Kristo is evidence to that. Indeed, which country bar a totalitarian state permits the practices of denying an employee a private life, expression of private opinions? In which country can a fact-based opinion expressed about ones work supervisor/manager/colleague lead to summary dismissal!? Where are the proper mechanisms to assert as to whether an opinion offends or insults someone or whether, in fact, the opinion is expressed in good faith in order to further a greater cause, a greater good; in this case – a furtherance of democratic practices!?

This is absolutely shocking!

In communist Yugoslavia, people knew only what the communist government wanted them to know; communist operatives were required to live and breathe communist party lines.

Director in Chief of HRT was appointed by the Croatian parliament and his political affiliation was ensured by the majority seats in the parliament, hence leading to leaving the public informing through that media outlet biased to the advantage of the outgoing president Ivo Josipovic and the former communist party members and affiliates currently leaning towards the Social Democrat, left-leaning, government that is evidently failing miserably at monitoring the implementation of and compliance with democratic principles contained in the Constitution and beyond.

Be that as it may, the Director in Chief of HRT/Croatian Radio and Television (Goran Radman) must be held accountable and responsible for maintaining and promulgating the Code of Ethics for the employees that are, more likely than not, in blatant breach of the country’s constitution and laws on freedom of expression and human rights. This matter cannot be fixed by changing that Code of Ethics to comply with legislative requirements, it can only be fixed by the sacking of the Director in Chief and replacing him with another person whose priority is compliance with the legislation and democracy. On that note, I am pleased that the Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights is supporting the initiative of Mr Branko Hrg MP to the parliament that Goran Radman, as Director in Chief HRT be dismissed. My Lord, he should have been suspended from duties, pending an investigation, the very moment Karolina Vidovic-Kristo had alerted to the likely and serious constitutional and human rights violations within the HRT Code of Ethics! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps.(Syd)

Croatia: The Swell Of Discontent Reawakens The Beast Of Communist Oppression

Celebrating Croatia’s admission into the UN on the main  square in Zagreb upon the return of President Tuđman  from New York on 24 May 1992. Croatia declared its  independence on 25 June 1991, confirmed this decision  on 8 October 1991 at the expiration of the moratorium,  and was recognised by the international community on  15 January 1992. Photo:

Celebrating Croatia’s admission into the UN on the main
square in Zagreb upon the return of President Franjo Tudjman
from New York on 24 May 1992. Croatia declared its
independence on 25 June 1991, confirmed this decision
on 8 October 1991 at the expiration of the moratorium,
and was recognised by the international community on
15 January 1992. Photo:

Booing and jeering grew louder on Monday 5 August in Knin as Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic climbed onto the podium to deliver his address to the crowds celebrating Croatian Victory and Thanksgiving Day!

Milanovic walked to the podium to cries of  “don’t let him speak”, “You don’t love Croatia”, “Monkey”, and “Manure” as the crowd showed their disapproval at Milanovic’s government’s policies over the last 18 months.

Milanovic spoke with a loud and forceful, somewhat embittered tone, evidently trying to outdo the jeering, whistling and booing from the crowd. As much as his speech contained praise for Croatia’s war efforts towards its independence and democracy, saying it was a righteous path, his words fell upon many disbelieving ears. After all it was Milanovic who only a few months ago wickedly said that Croatian Homeland War of 1990’s was a kind of a civil war similar to the one that had occurred in Finland!
After all, it’s Milanovic who confuses the issues about the War in Croatia; it’s Milanovic who has never expressed a strong and consistent view about the righteousness of Croatia’s fight for secession from communist Yugoslavia. Perhaps this is so because he has difficulties handling freedom and self-determination as the right of every citizen, singularly and/or as a nation.

Booing, jeering, whistling … at Knin, August 5:

The Police in Knin wasted no time is arresting one of the loudest men from the Knin crowd who booed, whistled and jeered at the Prime Minister.  Police are still combing through video footage in order to gather evidence for further arrests! They say that the charge is disturbing of public peace!
During the speeches from high-ranking state officials they whistled and yelled and created a racket disturbing the peace. One person has been arrested and will face court action at the Knin court, whilst investigation continues to catch the other culprits,” said a police statement. Monday’s official ceremonies were filmed and police will trawl through footage and have warned more people will face charges in the following days.

Booing, jeering and whistling at high ranking elected officials as they speak is a form of freedom of expression regarded as very normal behaviour of disapproval in developed democracies. It’s not swearing, blasphemy or what have you of the same offensive nature. Well not so in the apparently neo-communist arcades of the Croatian political scene – to “offend” a political leader, who happens to come from former communists ranks, by booing, jeering, whistling at him is obviously now considered a form of penal (read criminal) behaviour. Just as it was when communist Yugoslavia was alive and kicking its force around.

It’s blatantly and painfully obvious that democratic expressions of approval, or disapproval, have taken a serious step backward in Croatia during the past week; during the past couple of years…

Up until 1990, i.e. during the times of communist Yugoslavia, there was no booing, jeering or whistling at politicians while they spoke. To do so was dangerous and without fail landed one behind bars and ostracised as “unsuitable citizen” for life. This was just one ugly and brutal face of the Communist Party in Yugoslavia. Oh sure, they spoke of “socialism with a human face” but really that human face was defined by the communists as the one that had to be compatible with Party lines. Bitter experience led the people into growing careful as to what to say or not to say; one simply knew which words or non-verbal expressions of disapproval of political elites would land one behind bars, earn beatings, prison sentences …

Judging from what happened in Knin on Monday there is no doubt that Croatia is seeing a re-introduction of oppression, of fear mongering…of repression of freedom of expression. Threats made by the police (after arresting one man) to arrest more people for booing, jeering and whistling at public officials cannot be interpreted in any other way. These moves are not isolated or independently made by a local police station – they are part of the fabric of the newly “refreshed” police force padded with those that bow, nod and support the government which has major difficulties adjusting to democracy and abandoning the control freak show Yugoslavia was exposed to.

So, I ask myself: where did and how did Croatia stray from its primary goal set through 94% of democratic vote in 1991? Where did the message “we want to move away from totalitarian communism and move towards democracy” get lost in the past ten years especially?  Why have so many Croatian politicians lost sight of that primary goal and wobble around interpreting – often recklessly – the events from the war rather than keeping check on how is democracy (the primary goal) is faring?

“Now is the winter of our discontent” are the opening words of Shakespeare’s play and lay the groundwork for the portrait of Richard III as a discontented man who is unhappy in a world that hates him. The brooding malevolence that Shakespeare has Richard personify mirrors the playwright’s view of the state of the English nation during the Wars of the Roses.  Closer to our times, The Winter of Discontent refers to the winter of 1978–79 in the United Kingdom, during which there were widespread strikes by public sector trade unions demanding larger pay rises, following the ongoing pay caps of the Labour Party government led against Trades Union Congress opposition to control inflation, during the coldest winter for 16 years.

And, given the widespread disillusionment of Croatian people with the government and various politicians in opposition who expressly feed political divisions from the past, whose actions like the one above in Knin remind of painful and loathsome past, who have degraded and belittled the value of battles for democracy and exit from communist Yugoslavia, who have done little in putting right the thievery of national assets through corrupt individuals in high position, who evidently have little clue as to how to install an economy for betterment of citizens’ lives … I wonder if we are not looking at the Winter of Croatia’s Discontent that is simply bound to end, sooner than later, in widespread unrest that will bring new breath of life to the goal set by the people in 1991 (full democracy and freedom) and which goal has become buried amidst the kicking and screaming of die-hard communists. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Disclaimer, Terms and Conditions:

All content on “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is for informational purposes only. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” blog is not responsible for and expressly disclaims all liability for the interpretations and subsequent reactions of visitors or commenters either to this site or its associate Twitter account, @IVukic or its Facebook account. Comments on this website are the sole responsibility of their writers and the writer will take full responsibility, liability, and blame for any libel or litigation that results from something written in or as a direct result of something written in a comment. The nature of information provided on this website may be transitional and, therefore, accuracy, completeness, veracity, honesty, exactitude, factuality and politeness of comments are not guaranteed. This blog may contain hypertext links to other websites or webpages. “Croatia, the War, and the Future” does not control or guarantee the accuracy, relevance, timeliness or completeness of information on any other website or webpage. We do not endorse or accept any responsibility for any views expressed or products or services offered on outside sites, or the organisations sponsoring those sites, or the safety of linking to those sites. Comment Policy: Everyone is welcome and encouraged to voice their opinion regardless of identity, politics, ideology, religion or agreement with the subject in posts or other commentators. Personal or other criticism is acceptable as long as it is justified by facts, arguments or discussions of key issues. Comments that include profanity, offensive language and insults will be moderated.
%d bloggers like this: