Croatia: Prime Minister’s wife’s conflict of interests and sex education in schools

Timothy Tate and Judith Reisman   Photo: Boris Kovacev/Cropix

Timothy Tate and Judith Reisman Photo: Boris Kovacev/Cropix

Croatian association “Parents’ Voice For Children” (GROZD) has, according to Dnevno.hr news portal, 11 February, sent Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic an open letter in which it seeks the convening of an extraordinary Government meeting. GROZD seeks the exclusion of Professor Aleksandar Stulhofer from the government’s advisory committee on sex education in schools program and an investigation into the matter of seeing whether Prof. Stulhofer is associated with exposing children to pornography and the spreading of pedophilia in the Republic of Croatia.

Remove from duties the Minister for Science, Education and Sport, Mr Jovanovic, and prevent him from working in any similar position within the government of the Republic of Croatia because, due to many omissions in his work unscientific program that rests upon gender ideology and follows the directions of the World Congress of Sexologists which, among other things, promotes pedophilia, has been introduced in all schools in Croatia”, the open letter says.

According to Dnevno.hr portal, GROZD also seeks the annulment of Minister Jovanovic’s decision that makes the health education program mandatory for all school students. It also states that Stulhofer, besides being a scholar and an associate of the Kinsey Institute in U.S.A., has been collaborating for many years with persons who are declared pedophiles. GROZD emphasises that Stulhofer was against the raising of the legal age from 14 to 16 for sexual intercourse with adults in Croatia.

GROZD offered a warning, once again, that Stulhofer has introduced topics into sex education curriculum that give space for the promotion of pedophilia and endangerment of children who are entrusted to the education system of Croatia.

We take the liberty to ask you to withdraw your wife, dr. Music Milanovic, from the government’s advisory committee on the development of the curriculum because it is a fact that she is one of five members of that committee, possibly giving a false credibility to Prof. Stulhofer and to the non-scientific and ideological foundations of the school program”, concludes GROZD in its letter to Prime Minister Milanovic.

Whether Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic’s wife’s role in the government’s advisory committee on school curriculum for health (sex) education constitutes a serious conflict of interest in action is a matter that I cannot go into because I do not possess any factual information as to the workings of this committee and into any safety or precautionary procedures that may be in place to avoid detrimental effects conflict of interest may have on the sex education program introduced as mandatory component of school education in Croatia. However, when considering conflict of interest one must not only look at the actual situation of conflict of interests but also the “perceived” conflict of interest must also be eliminated. Judging from the Parents’ association GROZD letter to the Prime Minister there is no doubt that perceived conflict of interest exists in the minds of the stakeholders and the public when it comes to the  mandatory sex education in schools curriculum. This, in any fair and true democracy must be avoided and it would seem to me that Zoran Milanovic’s wife should resign her position on the committee as a matter of decency towards the public’s perception and fears; as a matter of furthering democracy in Croatia.

The fact that the sex education in Croatian schools was introduced without adequate (or any) public/parent consultation is a tragedy for the relatively young democracy.  It has brought serious rifts between the Church and the state,
it has seen the harshest (without reasonable foundation) of disciplining of journalist Karolina Vidovic Kristo, it has seen barrages of offensive remarks against dr. Judith Reisman, but it has also brought home the realisation that Croatia has a long way to go in its path of building democracy into all facets of public life.

British investigative journalist and filmmaker summarises the issues of and around the mandatory sex education program in Croatian schools in the video clip below:

Disciplining of journalist Karolina Vidovic Kristo for simply offering to the public information associated with sex education in school is, as Timothy Tate says: “…indicative of a mentality which is not democratic, which is not comfortable with difficult facts brought out into the public arena. You can’t stop free speech if you want to be a democracy. It would be unthinkable in Britain for the Prime Minister of Britain to stand up in parliament, as your Prime Minister stood up in parliament, and essentially trash the reputation of a journalist for bringing to light of something that should be brought to light ”.

Indeed! But then the wife of the British, the Australian … Prime Minister would not sit on the government’s advisory committee for the development of school education curricula.  It is a long established fact that school education curricula are the responsibility of governments but are also a fertile ground for the promotion or furtherance of political orientations and views. It is on that note that school education curricula must be independent of any political parties and that any real or perceived conflict of interest be removed from them. Otherwise, the way things seem in Croatia at this moment, democracy has a long way to travel before its roots are planted in all avenues of daily, ordinary lives of citizens. And, finally, as the plot around public outcries against or for the imposed mandatory school sex education program in Croatia thickens with the revelation that Prime Minister’s wife sat on the government’s advisory committee for the program, one wonders how much and whether the pro-government’s public noises were in fact trying to cover up the possible government-linked conflict of interest involved in the final cut of the program. It’s a matter of “watch this space”, but one cannot but applaud dr Judith Reisman for her announcement of defamation lawsuits against the media outlets and individuals in Croatia who had set out to shred her reputation. Dr Reisman may yet be a heroine that will demonstrate to the Croatian public that freedom of speech in a democracy is a sanctity regulated by the rule of defamation law. Ina Vukic, Prof (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Will Croatia’s former president Stjepan Mesic walk in Lord Jeffrey Archer’s footsteps for perjury?

Stjepan Mesic (left) Darko Petricic (right) Photo: getimage

In 2009, former president of Croatia (while still in office) filed a private lawsuit for defamation (by slander) against Darko Petricic, political analyst and publicist, in Zagreb.

Mesic claimed that Petricic had defamed him by saying on Croatian HTV program Dossier and later on Radio 101 that Mesic’s first presidential campaign (2000) was financed by the Albanian lobby (mafia) and that because of that Mesic had become one of three wealthiest people in Croatia.

Petricic’s book, “Croatia: in the net of mafia, crime and corruption” (Hrvatska u mrezi mafije, kriminala i korupcije) is also said to contain similar allegations.

On Thursday 29 March judge Zorislav Kaleb said in his judgment that Petricic had not defamed Mesic, that it was “a matter of serious critique of a politician without the intent to defame and offend and that it was proven during the proceedings that Mesic had kept company with some persons who were subject to criminal proceedings, but that it wasn’t proven whether Mesic extended any favours to them“.

Judge Kaleb also concluded that Mesic’s presidential campaign was not fully transparent and that it’s impossible to confirm who exactly donated funds to Mesic’s campaign.

With regard to Petricic’s public comment that Mesic is one of the three richest people in Croatia, judge Kaleb said that “this is a value judgement which does not fall within criminal jurisdiction”. Kaleb continued: “Today, nobody is relatively rich, or poor, adding that the President (Mesic) after leaving the office of State responsibility had purchased two appartments and two garages in his wife’s name, and it’s not clear who had lent him the money”.

Mesic did not attend court on the day judge Kaleb brought his decision, however, tportal.hr newsportal reports that his attorney had asked that Petricic be fined by 150 day’s wage, which is about 27,000 Kuna (about US$4,800.-), as he had not proven the truth of his comments nor that the Albanian lobby had financed Mesic’s presidential campaign.

Legally, defamation occurs when a public communication tends to injure the reputation of another person. England is the birthplace of Common law and it looks upon defamation as a communication that tends to harm the reputation of another as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him. Similar tracks are followed in most if not all countries of democratic persuasion.

Communications deemed (by courts) to be defamatory are usually those where malice and falsehood are proven.  Malice, in this context would point to knowing or reckless disregard for the truth.

It would seem that Petricic was not required to prove the truth of his commentary for a court judgment to be delivered. It would seem that Mesic did not insist that Petricic proves the truth of his commentary, i.e. that Albanian mafia really did fund Mesic’s presidential election campaign.

So, on basis of what usually occurs in defamation courts in the developed democratic countries, where malice and truth are pursued to a bitter end until proven or disproven, one cannot but conclude that Mesic, for whatever reason, was not really serious about his defamation lawsuit against Petricic, and Petricic got away without having to prove that Mesic’s campaign was truly financed by a mafia.

Or, did Judge Kaleb “save the day” for both of them by placing the whole affair into the category of political critique, or critique of a politician. This decision, then, is the crux that, if upheld on appeal or confirmed as final, aligns Croatian court opinions with those of the Western world in such matters.

In 2009, Tennessee (US), Sumner County Circuit Judge C.L. “Buck” Rogers dismissed a defamation case saying: “Debate on public issues shall be uninhibited [and] wide open and generally [does] include vehement, caustic and unpleasant attacks on the character and bias of public officials…Accusing a public official or public figure of using their political influence to obtain a benefit for others or themselves or favoring their supporters is not defamation”.

Indeed, in recent years, the US Supreme Court has allowed that only factual misrepresentation is to be considered libel or slander, not the expression of opinion. This trend is widespread throughout the courts of Western nations.

The outcome of Mesic’s defamation lawsuit against Petricic – “criticism of a politician and, therefore, not defamatory” – is of course good for Petricic and all free speech – as far as the tort of defamation goes.

However, the truth behind Petricic’s allegations against Mesic may never be known and that leaves the Croatian nation at an enormous disadvantage and in despair. Generally, failures in getting down to the nitty-gritty of most allegations of corruption and organized crime have been an agony infecting the whole nation, leaving it in tatters. Perhaps Petricic should have taken advantage of the defamation case against him and produced unquestionable proof that the Albanian mafia funded Mesic’s campaign, influencing Mesic, as he alleged.

Having said the above, the truth in Petricic’s allegations against Mesic may not be lost forever, after all. I.e. they may not remain just a “take-it-or-leave-it” political comment or critique, leaving people guessing as to whether Mesic is innocent or guilty of the allegations of corrupt conduct etc. Petricic has announced that he will sue Mesic for treason, war profiteering and international money laundering.

According to Helena Tkalcevic, Petricic said that he expected such a court decision and that he is preparing to countersue Mesic for having told many untruths in his court testimony, among others about the money he had reportedly received from the Croatian diaspora.

Who knows, Mesic just might get to walk in Lord Jeffrey Archer’s (UK bestselling author, MP) prison footsteps for perjury.

While this would be good if perjury is proven, I believe the people of Croatia would rather see the proof for alleged war profiteering and money laundering than for telling lies in court. All in all, it’s a shame that judge Kaleb did not, it seems, refer the matters against Mesic before him, that throw suspicion upon the propriety of sources of Mesic’s alleged wealth etc., to the State prosecutor’s office for further investigations, and that nothing may come out of criminal allegations against Mesic unless Petricic mounts a countersuit. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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