TCN meets the man behind Croatia’s leading news portal, Matija Babic from Index.
With an impressive half a million visitors a day, Croatian news portal Index.hr has long been established on the Croatian media scene since its founding in 2002. So popular is the site that it sits only behind Google, Facebook and YouTube in terms of popularity in Croatia, publishing dozens of stories daily, many of which are original and help shape the debate in the country.
The man behind Index, Matija Babic, kindly agreed to answer a few TCN questions on some of the top current issues in Croatia.
1. Foreign football fans fondly remember the successful Croatian team in France 98, but these days Croatian football is known for negative things – the Split swastika, the point deduction, the arrest of Mamic. Your call for a boycott of the national team until change occurs has a Facebook page following of more than 35,000. How did things get to this stage, and what realistically is the way forward?
It’s hard to say. Crime in football is not just a Croatian thing – it’s obvious that corruption in football is a global epidemic. The whole of FIFA and UEFA are based on corruption. I strongly believe that if those organizations are really going to be cleaned from criminals, people like Mamić and Šuker will not be able to exist any more. The way the things are right now, Mamić and Šuker fit perfectly well with likes of Blatter and Platini.
2. In the recent elections, you stated that you would vote for a new party, Pametno. With the impressive result of another new arrival, MOST, are we entering a new era of politics in Croatia, and is the two-party dominance under threat?
I wouldn’t be too optimistic. HDZ and SDP are not some evil anomalies. They are a mirror of Croatian people. 3/4 of Croatians are in one way or another connected to the national budget, and 1/4 of Croatians are feeding them all. The majority of Croatians don’t want real change. They would like change if it didn’t affect them. Nobody is going to say: “ok, I dont want the money that the State gives me, I don’t want it anymore because I know that the real sector cannot cover it, and that the State is heading toward bankruptcy because of me”. No. So, I don’t believe real change will come until things completely fall apart. Neither MOST not anybody else can achieve it if the majority of people oppose it.
3. How would you assess the quality of journalism in Croatia today?
Terrible. There are a couple of reasons: major media is completelly controlled by big companies and political parties. If you start writing about big companies, you lose advertising. If you start writing about influential politicians, you will get all possible institutions working against you. It is almost impossible to run an independent media in Croatia. And I am not even sure that people are interested in independent journalism. They are interested only in the truth that they like, not the truth as such.
4. How is Croatia handling the refugee and migrant crisis, in your opinion?
Croatia is not really in the middle of the migrant crisis because people don’t want to stay here. They are just passing. So we can say that Croatia is not bad in handling the forwarding of refugees. But the whole atmosphere around the refugees is terrifiying, and there is a lot of hatred coming from all sides. It was funny in a way to see all those warm-hearted Christians and caring socialists in their true light.
5. You are a controversial figure in Croatia, but there is no doubting the success of your work. Apart from Facebook, Google and YouTube, Index is currently the most popular website in Croatia. What is the secret of its success, given that there are a number of portals covering Croatia?
I would like to say that it’s because we are the only independent media, the only big news site with integrity in Croatia and people recognize and respect that. But I don’t believe that’s the real reason, at least not for most of our half a million visitors per day. I think that the “secret” is in the fact that we started Index in 2002., and people developed a habit. Habit is very important in the content business.