You Promised Not to Sue Me, PM: Will You Also Back Anti-SLAPP Bill?

Total Croatia News

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Photos by Vivian Grisogono
Photos by Vivian Grisogono

It has been an intense few weeks. 

In addition to the launch of our new national tourism portal, Total Croatia, and the ongoing Digital Nomads-in-Residence Program in Dubrovnik, the aftermath of my decision to make public the two lawsuits from the Croatian National Tourist Board against me continues to feature large in my daily life.

I have been genuinely stunned at the public reaction and support (95% in an Index poll in which about 20,000 people voted), as well as the significant media interest from Croatia’s independent media. I am also very grateful for the opportunity to discuss my case on national television (you can see my appearance on Good Morning Croatia – Dobro Jutro Hrvatska below).


I decided to go public with news of the lawsuit after reading an article on RTL about the culture of intimidating journalists through the issuing of SLAPP lawsuits by my lawyer, Vanja Juric (you can read a translation of that article here).  I had no idea that the practice was so widespread. Why would I, if very few people talk about such things in public. 

Apart my surprise at the massive public support, the other thing that stayed with me from breaking the news was how shocked people were that the national tourist board would sue me for 100,000 kuna.

Apart from being shocked in the sense of being intimidated (at least initially until Legendica Vanja filled me with reassurance), I was not that shocked at the issuing of the lawsuit. I took it as a HUGE compliment, of course, that one fat blogger in a cafe can bother them so much with the truth, but these tactics of intimidation are not actually that new to me – or, I am guessing, any other independent journalist in this country.

And while we all bear these daily harassments silently, I am wondering if perhaps the time is right to try and initiate a public discussion on this very topic.

I feel emboldened to do so in support of Centar MP, Marijana Puljak, who kindly raised my case in Parliament, calling for the quashing of the lawsuit and the removal of Kristjan Stanicic as Director of CNTB. You can see Marijana’s speech above (and a translation under the video in this article). 

But this is certainly not the first time I have been subjected to this kind of intimidation as an independent journalist. And, just as I called for – and received – the Prime Minister’s attention to my case last time, so too in this case. My impressions of the premiership of Andrej Plenkovic fluctuate a LOT, but I will remain eternally grateful to him calling me over for a chat on the main square in Jelsa at a time where I had been made to feel like a pariah by sections of the local community. 


I know of one other foreigner after me who wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Plenkovic, of course, and I congratulate both Jan de Jong the PM for working together to make the Croatian digital nomad permit a reality in a very short space of time. 

But back in August 2018, foreigners writing open letters to Prime Ministers was unheard of. I decided to do so because I thought the intimidation I was made to feel in my adopted hometown needed to be countered by someone of influence outside the town. And with the Prime Minister coming the following week for ‘Dan Opcine Jelsa’ (Jelsa’s Municipal Day), I decided to try something out of the box which you can read about this TCN article – How to Fix Croatia: Open Letter to Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic.

That summer of 2018 taught me more about the realities of Croatia than any other. 

Jelsa has been incredibly good to me, providing me with a home, lovely family, and a fantastic lifestyle for more than 13 years. It was a town (and an island) I loved writing about. And my Total Hvar blog was – for the most part – incredibly positive about Hvar, putting many destinations on the international map for the first time.

And then it all changed. 

It remains the story I am most proud of in my ten years of writing for the Total Project, in terms of facts and research. I don’t think I have ever published a story which had as many documents or verified facts. I first published in March, 2018.

Goodbye Jelsa Bench, Hello Carpe Diem? Mayor Niksa Peronja Gives Prime Concession to Hvar Party Partner.

The story caused quite a stir, but the plot thickened, as certain people (always anonymous – nobody wanted to be publicly quoted) sent me more links and documents, which I also published in July:

Hvar Party Tourism Spreading to Jelsa? How to Grab Island Zecevo When Nobody is Watching.

This caused an immediate reaction from the Mayor of Jelsa, more I suspect due to the anonymous letters posted around Vrboska. He announced a public meeting in Vrboska to explain to people there the truth behind the future of Zecevo. 

The night before the meeting, there was a town council meeting in Jelsa, after which I was informed by three sources that the Mayor had decided to sue me for defamation. A figure of 200,000 kuna was apparently mentioned. 

A huge sum, and certainly not one I could afford to pay at the time. But I decided to attend – and film – the public meeting the following day. I was extremely curious not only what the Mayor would say, but also what the reaction of the local audience would be to such an emotive issue. 

And that is how – as YouTube has recorded for posterity – Mayor Niksa Peronja announced to the world that he was suing me (see video below). 

What happened after that was a real education. People I had known for years unfriended me on Facebook. Others looked the other way while I walked down the street. Suddenly there were lots of seats next to me at the cafe. As unpleasant as that was, the really fascinating place to be was my inbox. So many people thanking me, but asking for my understanding that they could not be seen to do so publicly. Others sending me other examples of alleged corruption, with documents, asking me to publish them. When I suggested that we publish under joint name, they disappeared. It was fine for me to fight the fight on their behalf, but there was no way they would greet me in the street or stand with me.  

And so I wrote to the Prime Minister. If he would show me some support, that could potentially make my life less unpleasant. 


He sat down at the next cafe with the local HDZ crew for a chat and photo op, as the Prime Minister does at this event every year. And every year, I always rise from the next cafe and take a photo for a story. Only this year was different. 

The Prime Minister motioned for me to come over to his table. I did, and he rose to greet me. 

“Hi. Call me Andrej. You are the blogger, right? The one who wrote an open letter with four ways to fix this country?”

Indeed I was. We had a pleasant chat for a couple of minutes with ended with a very reassuring promise from the Croatian Prime Minister, which was the title of my next article, some 15 minutes later, and which he has (so far) kept:

Prime Minister Tells Total Croatia News: I Won’t Sue You, Don’t Worry.

And he never has. And for that brief intervention in my life, I will always be grateful to the man who told me to call him Andrej, even if I have strong differences of opinion on some other issues. 

And the funny thing is that Mayor Peronja never sued me either, despite his public promise. Make of that what you will. 

And so, Andrej, for that is how you told me to address you, you have shown decency on the topic of defending the independent media with my case in Jelsa three years ago.

Will you also commit to supporting Marijana Puljak’s initiative to introduce anti-SLAPP legislation into the Croatian Parliament? 


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