Croatia: Sex On The Brain, Freedom Of Expression In The Drain

Dr. Judith Reisman  Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

Dr. Judith Reisman Photo: Patrik Macek/Pixsell

While the recently introduced sex education in Croatian schools (about which I have written before) has attracted loud – intermittently laced with profound despair – controversies in community at large, distress and disappointment in many community and parent groups claiming there had not been adequate public discussion or consultation on the issue, serious rows and rifts between the Church and the State, the swift axing of “Picture of Croatia” TV show and hence punishing its head journalist Karolina Vidovic-Kristo for including extracts from “Kinsey Syndrome” in her coverage of the then proposed sex education program in schools, what has occurred in Croatia during the past week is nothing short of an alarmingly ugly face of a democracy and freedom of access to information.

Certainly, there’s a strong stench of intolerance for and lack of acknowledgment of diversity in opinion and thinking blowing from the current Social Democrats led government in Croatia. One might say quite similar to the climate that pervaded communist Yugoslavia. It is alarming to even contemplate that a governing party representative in a democratic country would go so far as to verbalise publicly that expressions of different thinking should be banned, and suffer no consequences, no reprimand from the government. That’s what has happened in Croatia the last few days and it is truly no wonder that people at large are calling the current government Communists, with connotations that lead one to conclude that democratic civil freedoms in Croatia are suffering significant setbacks.

The metastases of the government’s apparent intolerance of differing opinions surfaced this week like never before; orchestrated and often uncivilised attacks on views and work of Dr. Judith Reisman, an American cultural conservative writer best known for her criticism and condemnation of the work and legacy of Alfred Kinsey who believes sex researcher Alfred Kinsey is responsible for much of the cultural decay and sexual permissiveness that she sees; that affect today’s societies.

On Tuesday 29 January freedom of speech, media freedom got suspended in Croatia and so did the respect of fundamental principles of journalism, writes Marko Juric of

On that day the leading Croatian media outlet, HTV, reported about Dr. Judith Reisman’s lecture at the Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb, in a manner that was ‘extremely shameful and completely akin to manners found in the far away times of Fascism or Bolshevism of one-party totalitarian system’. All that the public could hear or see from this HTV coverage was what the staunch and aggressive, at times shockingly rude and utterly uncivilised opponents of Dr. Reisman’s views had to say.  The pinnacle of such intolerance was when the Faculty’s Dean, Nenad Zakosec, came out and aggressively, shouted at Reisman before hundreds of  students (many of which had shouted insults and barraged bigoted questions/comments):  ‘what are you doing here!‘”

It is no wonder that Reisman said later that she had never before in her life been confronted by so many bullies as during this visit to Croatia.

Then, her debate at the Faculty of Philosophy with the head of sexology there, Aleksandar Stulhofer, was cancelled on 30 January due to the big crowd turning up!

Stulhofer was one of the authors of the new sex education program in schools recently introduced in Croatia. One wonders whether the event organisers thought of “real fire” safety measure when they cancelled it, or whether they feared a new “fire against the government sex education program” would erupt. In view of everything that has transpired on sex education in schools in Croatia and the government’s stubbornness to go ahead with its plan regardless of the community disquiet about it, the latter would be a safer bet as to why the event at the Faculty of Philosophy was cancelled.

Then Reisman was supposed to attend the screening of documentary film director Timothy Tate’s film “Kinsey’s Paedophiles, secret history“, but, wouldn’t you know it – the screening fell through – cancelled despite enormous public interest. Technical difficulties were afoot – three times over!

Of course, the coalition government’s members of parliament have come out “screaming blue murder” at the parliamentary opposition’s (Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ) invitation to Reisman to give a lecture in the Croatian Parliament building – for the HDZ Parliamentary Club. Even though HDZ or any other parliamentary party has an absolute right under the Constitution to invite anyone they want to, to talk in their premises, the governing coalition is abhorred at the fact that someone who has a different view to theirs as to sex education and various influences on sexuality of children should be allowed to set foot in the parliament building! To quote governing Social Democrats; Tatjana Simac Bonacic: “… it is inappropriate for that (Reisman’s talk) to occur in Parliament, because the Parliament is a home, a symbol of democracy and as such it is certainly not for people like that (like Reisman)” ! (HRT News, 29 January 2013).

On the other hand, HDZ representatives including its President Tomislav Karamarko and Zeljko Reiner – deputy president HDZ parliamentary group, fan the view that in a democracy all views on the issue have the right of expression and should be heard and that if Reisman was good enough to talk in US Congress, she is good enough to talk in the Croatian Parliament building.

Indeed, it seems that in these crazy times HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union is one of the rare political parties in Croatia who see freedom of expression for what it truly is: freedom to express ones ideas and freedom to offer information on pertinent social, or other issues, leaving it to the individual to accept or reject the ideas, or even remain undecided.

So, is the orchestrated attack and intolerance expressed so widely in Croatia towards Judith Reisman really an objective and justified attack on her belief’s and work as unacceptable to today’s society, or did we just see a perfect example of intolerance and decay of democracy in Croatia fueled by the governing coalition’s attempts to censure and even oppress ideas that normally float freely in the democratically developed world?

In summary and regarding Reisman, the 2004 Bill Condon’s movie, “Kinsey”, may have reawakened America’s interest in the largely forgotten but influential post-War era sex researcher Dr. Alfred Kinsey, but for Judith Reisman, he has been a singular dedication, which some have labelled as obsession, for decades. Reisman has given herself the task to fight against Kinsey, to focus on morality via existential battles with the forces of cultural decay and sexual permissiveness. While her ideas have naturally endeared her to a Who’s Who of conservative political echelons and many survivalists, she has had in 2004 provided expert testimony on Capitol Hill (Washington DC) for Republican Sen. Sam Brownback on the scientific perils of pornography. There, she also lobbied for the reintroduction of a bill that would mandate an investigation into her claim that Kinsey sexually abused children during his research. Through friends in the Justice Department, Reisman has helped push for an increased focus on prosecuting porn. As Reisman gathers influence across the world, her work is bearing an increasingly apparent mark on the Christian right’s political agenda and by extension, on social policy.

Some organisations in Croatia say that Reisman’s visit to Croatia is the result of the campaign of circles around the clergy, who are against the sex education in schools curriculum, to convince people that the scientific foundations of this curriculum are based on the criminal homosexual-pedophile work undertaken by Kinsey. Little doubt, those who say this are close to the government or its thinking; justifying perhaps the government’s unwavering resolve to implement its sex education curriculum “come Hell, or high water” in the constituency.

Having said all this, there were many in Croatia who welcomed Reisman and her talks; listened to her ideas, research, peacefully. That is what freedom of expression of ideas or freedom of information regarding an important issue affecting the society (such as sex education in schools) should be. So, there’s light at the end of the censorship tunnel – the incidents around Reisman may, hopefully, teach one how democracy should and should not work; and the threading of democratic processes may yet come to the seemingly badly needed drawing board. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Croatia: The Mother Of All Gags Creeps Back In

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So, let’s say I notice that a Croatian Public Servant (Government employee) is having a two or three-hour taxpayer funded lunch break (which can certainly happen in Croatia on a regular basis – an unwelcome habit formed during the days of Communist Yugoslavia) and I comment with disapproval about that in public (to one or more people etc.), I stand the risk of being heftily fined or sent to prison for it. Because, you see, my comments may have embarrassed or insulted the Public Servant! Let alone if I criticize a guy seemingly working, but hopelessly incompetent behind the desk of some public service office! Or I say something “I shouldn’t” at a democratic peaceful public rally where baton-happy or handcuff-quick police stare intently.
The changes to Croatia’s Violation of Public Order and Peace Act (Zakon o Prekrsajima Protiv Javnog Reda i Mira) that became effective as at 1st January 2013, say that one cannot “publish” facts that have the capacity of embarrassing, insulting a Public Servant.
I.e. Article 17, section (1) of the Act says: “Those who belittle or insult government bodies, i.e. official persons from those bodies during their conduct of their official duties or associated with the conduct of duties or applied to their authority or refuses to proceed according to their legal orders, will be punished with a monetary fine of 7,000.- to 15,000.- Kunas or a prison sentence of up to 60 days”.
Putting this monetary fine into perspective: average monthly wage in Croatia is around 5,500.- Kunas (730.- EURO), and not many are on that average wage and more are unemployed.
It’s clear that parts of the former Communist Yugoslavia penal code/legislation has crept into the today’s democratic Croatia – a New Year’s gift from hell.
Communist Yugoslavia got to enjoy much – undeserved – “glory” for its corrupt regime via Article 133 of the Criminal Act of SFRY (Kazneni Zakon SFRJ) which enabled criminal prosecution of persons who publicly express dissatisfaction with government officials, servant (with the regime)!
Article 133, Criminal Act SFRY said: “ Whosoever in writing, in flyers, in drawing, in speaking or in other way calls for or incites bringing down the authorities of the working class and working people to anti-constitutional change of the Socialist Self-governing social order, to bringing down of brotherhood and unity and equality of people and nationality, to deposition of organs of social self-management and authorities or their executive bodies, to resistance towards decisions of authorized bodies of government and self-management which are of importance for the protection and development of Socialist self-management relations, security or defense of the country, or maliciously and untruthfully shows the social-political conditions in the country, shall be punished by prison from one to ten years”.
From the above Article 133 we can easily see that it covered the criminal act of classic treason but that it also incriminated a typical verbal delict, if not a thought as well!
It is highly possible that Article 17 (1) of Croatia’s revised Violation of Public Order and Peace Act also incriminates that what we know as verbal delict.
The use of word “insult” in this Section of Croatia’s law is not only a Draconian measure but, much worse, it has all the markers of giving the Public Servants (Police, Judges, Teachers, Social Security workers…) wings that will breed over-zealousness in their interpretation of the Section of the Act and consequently many unwarranted arrests or other punitive moves that criminal codes sweep into the scenes. Abuse of such power will most likely be visible within months – the memory of arrogant, self-fulfilling Public Servants in former Yugoslavia still hovers fresh.
While more progressive countries such as the United Kingdom are seriously considering scrapping the “insult” legislation from Public Order laws, Croatia has just introduced it!
The word ‘insulting’ should be removed from section 5 of the Public Order Act – reads Daily Mail from May 2012. This would provide proportionate protection to individuals’ right to free speech, whilst continuing to protect people from threatening or abusive speech.

Even Bolivian court has recently ruled that insult laws against public officials are unconstitutional as they violate citizens’ right to freedom of expression.

Well, in Croatia, the new Public Order Act Section 17 (1) is definitely the gate for new manipulation by legal means, which could, for example, manifest itself in legally gagging the mouths of citizens who express dissatisfaction with the political (government) authorities, regardless of the fact that Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic has said a few months ago that his government wouldn’t imprison anyone for verbal delict. When we assess the political benefit this legislation has the capacity of creating, a freedom loving person almost wishes that this law were in force while Dr. Franjo Tudjman was alive (and since his death in 1999) and anti-Tudjman lies and garbage were the order of the day, almost. Not even in the harshest days of malicious, unsubstantiated, attacks in the media against him had he contemplated to revert back to such gags as were present in Communist Yugoslavia. He would look at what other civilized countries of democracy are doing and use them as models (as he asked everyone to do when the first democratic parliament was assembled in Croatia, in May 1990) – he would see that these other countries are well on the way to eradicate “insult” of Public Officials legislation and certainly would not condone enactment of the legislation other democratic societies are getting rid of.

There are adequate remedies that exist in civil libel and slander legislation to provide recourse for perceived defamation in every democratic society, so too in Croatia. Public Servants are the servants of the public, not its masters. The European Court of Human Rights has on numerous occasions expressed this view in turning aside legal efforts to punish “insult”. It said in the late 1990’s case where President Tudjman sued the editor of Feral Tribune newspaper for insult: “the very function of the press in a democratic society (is) to participate in the political process by checking on the development of the debate of public issues carried on by political office-holders”. Amnesty International stuck its finger in that pie too, calling upon the President to drop the case and ensure freedom of expression in Croatia!

I wonder how Amnesty International will react to the new Article 17 (1) of the Croatian Public Order Act? Perhaps they won’t react at all – after all they seem to miss out on giving a piece of mind to many acts former communists in today’s government undertake.
All nations are bound by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which declares in its Article 19: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” But, I fret that Croatian Public Officials may not bother distinguishing between an opinion and a statement – their heavy hand mind fall with equal force against both, just like it did in former Yugoslavia pursuant to Article 133 of Criminal Act of SFRY. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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