Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: From the Sublime to the Surreal

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One of the things that I have learned about being sued in Croatia is that it is very important to be in control of your calendar. This is true both for the lawyers and the defendant. Without proper control of the calendar, lawyers can double book appointments (not once, but twice) leading to a delay in the hearing. This is something we observed in a previous court report where I uncovered a solution to speed up the Croatian judicial system – we simply need to crowdfund for more legal secretaries to organise the lawyers. Read more in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: 50 Lawyers, No Secretary, No Hearing.  

For the defendant, diaries are also important. I am a notoriously disorganised person, and planning ahead is not one of my strengths. One thing I am learning about the Croatian legal process is that nobody is in a hurry. The two delayed hearings from the double-booked prosecution lawyer, for example, put back the first hearing by over 6 months. I am not necessarily in a hurry either, although there is the small issue of the rolling interest on the lawsuit. This stands at 8% a year, so for every year that the case goes on (and we are at 2 years almost already), add 8,000 kuna to the 100,000 kuna claimed from the two lawsuits. If I lose. So with a double-booked prosecution lawyer delaying proceedings by 6 months, that is an additional potential 2,000 kuna to pay on one of the two lawsuits. 

My problem with planning in the future is that the last hearing in November threw up a date in May the following year (another 2,000 kuna). As I never have anything planned that far ahead, I didn’t immediately take a note of the exact day – it would come with the court notes later. 

Thursday May 5, at midday in the Zagreb Municipal Court, the documentation told me. 

This hearing would see the first witnesses giving evidence on an article that I did not write on a portal that I do not own which quoted me. As I understand it, there was no request for retraction, and the article is still live in its original format today. Given that the lawsuit is for 50,000 kuna for defamation, and seemingly no effort has been made to remove or alter the original article, I find this a little strange. 

Both sides were invited to provide witnesses to give evidence in the hearing. My other lawsuit, for a meme featuring the official Croatian tourist board slogan, had myself and the Director of the Croatian National Tourist Board on the witness stand talking about uhljebs, how many Facebook followers I had, what I was doing before I moved to Croatia 20 years ago, and a host of other things. It was my first time on the witness stand in a court of law, and it was a rather strange experience, as you can read in Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit: HTZ Director Kristjan Stanicic Talks Uhljebs.

Two witnesses were proposed from the prosection, both employees of the national tourist board, and three for the defence, including the journalist who wrote the article (whom I have never met). I was surprised to learn that both prosecution witnesses were called to appear on May 5, but only one for the defence. My lawyer informed me that this was quite normal, as 5 witnesses were too much for one hearing, and the other witnesses would be called at a later date. As it turns out, the remaining two witnesses have been called to appear in 6 months’ time, in November (another 2,000 kuna…). 

About a month before the hearing, I started to get organised and realised to my horror that I was the one who was double booked. A conference I was involved in organising in Dubrovnik was taking place on May 5-7, with the opening welcome party on May 4. What an inconvenience (and additional expense) to fly to Dubrovnik for the opening, then fly back early the next morning to Zagreb, and then back to Dubrovnik in the afternoon, thereby missing the first day of the conference entirely.

And then it got really strange… 

One of the sponsors of the event came forward a couple of weeks before the conference, to sponsor the opening night (and very nice it was too) – none other than the Croatian National Tourist Board. Not only that, but one of the two people due to give evidence against me the following day in court in Zagreb was representing the tourist board at the event in Dubrovnik I was involved in organising. Sponsor your event by night, give evidence against you by day. 

A strange feeling indeed, and so the magical world of Croatia works. I wondered if we would share a cab to the airport, and then perhaps one to the Zagreb courtroom. I really didn’t want to miss the first day of the conference, and in the end my lawyer Vanja Juric told me to stay in Dubrovnik. I would not be called to speak and nothing would be decided that day. She would handle all. 

And so to the opening night of the event in Dubrovnik where, as sponsors, the national tourist board soon-to-be prosecution witness (and a very nice lady) welcomed all to the Sponza Palace, shaking hands with those as they entered. 

“Hello Paul,” she said, with the accompanying handshake, which was reciprocated. And so a pleasant evening ensued.

And so to the following day in Zagreb, which took place with me in the conference in Dubrovnik. 

The minutes of the lawsuit seemed to show that the prosecution witnesses consider that TCN has an insignificant reach and is not an important portal, and that I am not a tourism expert (I never claimed to be, although it is true that I get asked to talk about tourism at conferences – next one of the future of tourism at Future Tense in Zagreb on June 9). Apparently, the national tourist board did an excellent job and reacted well to everything. 


Reporting on corona was a really intense time, especially after we introduced the award-winning Viber Community,  Total Croatia Travel INFO, which as Dubrovnik  Mayor Mato Frankovic noted, brought ‘priceless’ promotion to Dubrovnik when 12.5 million Americans tuned in to Good Morning America for a piece on Dubrovnik during the pandemic (see above). Not bad for an insignificant portal.

I decided to look back at the corona timeline with a little hindsight. Perhaps our tourism chiefs (and I include the Ministry of Tourism, then run by Minister Gari Cappelli and the rest of the tourist board structure) really did do an amazing job and were ahead of the game. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. A brief timeline: 

January 25, 2020 – The first article on TCN on coronavirus appears: What is Croatia Doing to Prevent the Spreading of the New Coronavirus?

February 25, 2020 – The first case of coronavirus in Croatia. Soon after TCN starts a daily update on coronavirus. 

March 9, 2020First ever coronavirus map (in English or Croatian) of Croatia appears on TCN. 


May 6, 2020 (more than two months after the first case in Croatia, and almost two months since the first corona map), ZERO mention of coronavirus on the Ministry of Tourism website. COVID-19 as a topic simply does not exist. 


There is precious little information on the national tourist board website either, unless you like to read official communiques from Narodne Novine – hardly a tourist-friendly read. 


May 11, 2020 – All change 5 days later, however, as noted by leading portal, Index.hr



Suddenly the Ministry had an entire section in English dedicated to coronavirus. 


And for some reason, the Croatian National Tourist Board thought this might a good moment to also update its information. 

All good. Kind of. 

The problem was back then that there was so much unclear information. Nobody could tell you definitely who could or could not cross the border. As we had been writing about corona extensively, and with the lack of information from the official tourism bodies, as you can see above, a lot of people and portals (including CNN, which was linking to our daily update) were relying on TCN to get up-to-date information. From memory, our daily update had around half a million visits in total. 

May 17, 2020 – In the absence of any proper information, I asked Kreso Macan to come with me to visit the Slovenian border crossing at Bregana outside Zagreb, so that we could see firsthand what was happening, and who was – and was not – being allowed to enter. To say that confusion reigned would be an understatement

The Ministry of Health had recently launched the Koronavirus community which was enormously useful, as was the corresponding website – for Croatian readers. There was limited information in English, but it was something. The Ministry of the Interior (who were outstanding throughout corona) then started a section of their site with some information. But something was missing, and we decided to start a Viber community for tourists, similar to the Koronavirus one, a free service.  


Within a couple of hours, we had a simple infographic that shared the essential information that simply was not available elsewhere. By the end of the first day, the community had translated this into 12 languages.  We worked hard and answered all the questions we could, as Macan put in the systems to automate the process. 

And then the new community showed us some other things…


While we were answering the same day,  lots of questions to official websites asking for information were going unanswered. 5 days no response, 8 days no response – there were hundreds of posts like this. As we established above, I am not a tourism expert, but I am guessing that if a tourism country’s official bodies cannot be bothered to answer questions about entry requirements, then perhaps tourists could choose somewhere else for your vacation.  

This is the reality of what was happening on the ground. 

I could go on, but fear that I have already gone on a lot. No, I am not a tourism expert, and yes, my portal has a miniscule reach, but despite this I am grateful for the 7 international awards for the Viber Community, that the likes of CNN and ABC News somehow managed to find us, that the Mayor of Dubrovnik appreciated the priceless (his word) promotion, and the literally dozens of people I have met all over the country who told me that without that Viber community, there would have been no chance of visiting Croatia at all. 

Does constructive criticism official bodies in Croatia work? Yes it can. Is it popular? No. I was intrigued to learn from the national director in court that I was the only person the national tourist board sued in all of 2020. And they sued me twice, despite me having a very small reach, and again after posting a variation of their logo on my private Facebook page for 3 days which has an even smaller reach – I wonder if they will be suing this national television broadcaster for playing around with their logo – Croatia, Full of Deception – on prime time television last week. 


November will be a big month for Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, with the next hearings for both lawsuits scheduled for their next hearings. If there are no double bookings. 

To follow the latest from Diary of a Croatian Lawsuit, click here.  


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