The ‘Lupiga’ Case: Community Comes Together to Support Press Freedom

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The award-winning Croatian portal recently turned to their readers for help and launched a crowdfunding campaign, meeting their set goal in less than a week. A rundown of the case on January 8, 2018

Anyone keeping track of Croatian media has probably heard about Lupiga, the acclaimed independent news site dedicated to investigative journalism. Lupiga was founded in 2002 in Zagreb, with its team of dedicated writers continuing to work on a volunteer basis for twelve years as the site grew to become one of the most respectable publications in Croatia.

Lupiga’s policy has always been very clear: no clickbait, no fluff, no ‘news’ on celebrity spottings and fashion trends, not a word dedicated to anything that could be dubbed even slightly irrelevant to the Croatian society. For the last sixteen years, their growing team has been delivering only exhaustive, well-researched stories related to burning social issues, political affairs and the cultural scene in Croatia.

In 2013, Lupiga was granted state-provided funding, but the support turned out to be short-lived. Two years ago, the Ministry of Culture led by former minister Zlatko Hasanbegović ceased to co-finance the majority of non-profit Croatian media, leaving numerous independent publications struggling to procure funds required to keep delivering quality content. Some of them managed, some of them didn’t, some have since closed down.

Instead of reaching out to potential sponsors who could end up meddling in their editorial policy and thus negatively affect their independent status, Lupiga decided to turn to their readership base. On December 19, 2017, they launched a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo, aiming to raise funds required to keep the site running for a year. Titled ‘There’s plenty of us!’ (Ima nas! in Croatian), the campaign promised Lupiga would deliver at least one substantial article, video or photograph every day through 2018, resulting in a minimum of 365 quality pieces.

The goal was set at $19.999, a sum that equals half of the amount required to keep the site afloat in the course of a single year. The editorial staff pledged to procure the other half on their own, and prepared a broad range of perks to be won in exchange for donations: books, music albums, movie and concert tickets, festival passes. Certain perks sparked a laugh: for $25, they would send you a curated selection of threats and offenses they receive on a daily basis. For $50, you could ‘play a pawn in the hybrid war‘ and pose a question to a politician of your choice, with Lupiga standing as a middleman. If you had $1000 to get rid of, you could have had the acclaimed poet Marko Tomaš write you a personalised poem, or be sent a collection of works written by the legendary Croatian writer and journalist Igor Mandić.

All the listed perks are long gone. Since the first moment the campaign was launched, hitting the refresh button has been a source of joy: nine hours later, the raised amount stood at almost $5000.


Indiegogo / screenshot

The community united to help one of few independent major news sources in Croatia, and seven days later, the goal was met. Lupiga has since raised the bar to $29.999, an amount that would enable them to hire more writers and further improve the quality of the site. Here’s a part of their updated statement:

“We admit we’re surprised and stunned. Thanks to your support, we enter the new year with a peace of mind and more courage, but also with more ambition to dedicate ourselves to [the type of] journalism we all care about. (…) We can guarantee that you will be getting only honest and substantiated opinions from people who will collaborate with Lupiga. Some of them you will agree with, some of them not so much, but in both cases you will be sure you’ve read an authentic opinion, uninfluenced by any intent of promotion, concealment, manipulation and other things we’ve all had enough of witnessing in the public space.”

The raised amount currently stands at $22.706, with twelve days left before the campaign ends. In case you want to contribute to a worthy cause in an age when freedom of the press needs to be defended in any way at our disposal, consider donating to Lupiga here.


You can read their original statement, published on the campaign website, below:

“A free press can, of course, be good or bad, but most certainly without freedom, the press will never be anything but bad,” said Albert Camus, a philosopher, writer and a fellow journalist.

When we started 16 years ago, big words did not mean much to us. It seemed like the world was on the right track. A group of journalists, friends and colleagues who met up regularly at Lupillus, their favorite watering hole in Zagreb, decided to put together Rookie journalists would break their first stories and run their first columns on Lupiga, and build a loyal readership.

This was where Edo Maajka, a rapper from Bosnia, put together his first Zagreb rhymes. Marčelo from Belgrade sent us his first literary attempts. This is where some of today’s TV producers tested their journalistic prowess, and some audio-visual artists discovered their talents. Some of them ended up launching star-studded careers, and by 2004 Lupiga won the VIDI Top ten media award.

A path to success was opening for us, to big money perhaps: all we needed to do was write short stories about everything and nothing, about shallow corruptive affairs and deep cleavages. But we don’t see journalism that way. It would be a disgrace to everything we believe in; an insult to Feral Tribune and the persistent fight of our colleague Drago Hedl, an affront to Igor Mandic’s splendid writing style and to Veselko Tenzera’s sentences, a slight to whistleblower Ankica Lepej’s citizen courage, an indignity to Jasna Babić’s curiosity and investigative spirit.

At our “real” jobs (read: full-time day jobs) we worked like hell – but our free time and our passion belonged to Lupiga. It continued for the next 12 years. Lupiga grew bigger and bigger. Then came the end of 2013, and for the first time Lupiga received a grant from the Ministry of Culture. Our small nonprofit community began to thrive. With just a small financial injection, we created a brand new media environment – a website that rose to prominence without fake news or „titty bait“.

We were into investigative journalism, digging through Catholic church finance, scandalous takeovers of public companies, an industry brought to its knees. We wrote about Croatian oligarchs, the neglected cultural scene, about people being run over by the system, about gender, national and economic equality – and our audience grew. And it was the obvious proof that the public isn’t only interested in tits and ass.

When the political climate shifted, free media was the first to face cuts. Journalism as we see it did not satisfy the tastes of those in power. They fancy entertainment over journalism, obscure arrangements over vocal criticism. We’re not supposed to stick our noses into their businesses or question what kind of society we are leaving to our children.

But for us, it seemed that journalism “is printing what someone else does not want printed“ and that „everything else is public relations”, like another great journalist, George Orwell, said. Today we know that those words were not left to us by chance. They were left to us as warnings. Free press is one of the supporting pillars of a healthy society – but a pillar that needs support as well. That’s why we want to write about what matters, in-depth investigative stories, pointing out anomalies in society – a society that allows convicted war criminals to become heroes, while politics and big money exploit public good.

It’s the only way we can make it better. By providing space – and a platform – for people who have something to say.

In the year we leave behind, Lupiga not only managed to survive, but offered new perspectives, opening important discussions. Two of our journalists, Melisa Skender and Jasna Babić, received the annual awards of the Croatian Journalism Society.

Lupiga was driven by journalism, passion and support from friends and colleagues. Now we come to you, our readers, sympathizers, all of you who believe that keeping free media alive is important.

Lupiga wants to provide you with at least an article, a photograph or video that counts, every day, 365 times a year. The amount we are asking for will not cover a fair price for the authors, but it does cover half. It will be spent on our contributors, as a pay for their work. The goal is to keep Lupiga independent, resistant to pressure from those who think that silence can be bought. It is clear that the only free media is the one owned by its readers and journalists. A media outlet – without a big boss.

A big thank you to all of our colleagues, friends and sympathizers that helped us prepare this campaign, helping us reach out to people aware of the fact that without free press there is no free society. We need each other.

Donate to Lupiga, so we can be louder together!”


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