July 26, 2018 — Nationalist social media users have started spreading a list of a dozen “journalists and commentators” allegedly discrediting the country via foreign media outlets.
No, TCN didn’t make the list.
A pro-nationalist meme featuring a list of foreign correspondents and commentators allegedly working to compromise Croatia’s standing in the world has been spreading around the country’s social media cauldron over the last four days.
Mostly shared on Facebook, the text features a dozen “journalists/commentators” featured in major foreign media outlets such as The New York Times and BBC. The original author of the Facebook post is still unknown.
Croatia’s journalists regularly face intimidation tactics such as these memes, according to Reporters Without Borders. The groups’ annual report on the state of Croatia’s media said local journalists faced even greater pressure when investigating corruption, organized crime or war crimes.
Croatia’s government has done little-to-nothing to ensure journalists’ safety, according to Reporters Without Borders. The group also said reported instances of hate speech are rarely, if ever, acted upon.
The names now circulating social media cover a broad spectrum of professions, from established soccer correspondents to academics, without any clear reason for their selection other than their appearance in foreign media outlets as either authors or analysts. A plurality of the names are Serbian-sounding — or at least non-Catholic Croatian — names.
[Full disclosure: the author of this article has spent the better part of the last five years covering Croatia for the foreign press yet didn’t make the list.]
Some of the intimidation tactics culminate in physical attacks, threats or cyber harassment, which technically encapsulates the current list circulating social media.
The newest furor involves the international and local response to controversial rock musician Marko “Thompson” Perković’s inclusion in Croatia’s World Cup celebration in Zagreb, where the singer took the stage and sang one of his songs along with the team.
The foreign press’s ensuing scrutiny of the singer, the team and Croatia’s long history of merging nationalism and football put an unflattering light on the nation’s relationship with its past.
One of the earliest posts publicly available on the site appears on the “Hrvatski Domoljubi” (Croatian Patriots) page. Its introduction reads:
“And then you read the names of these foreign media [journalists] who [defecate on] Croatia, and you wonder how many of them are [defecating] and lying even here in Croatia — against Croatia, staining Croatia in the world for Croatian money. […] Forbidding it would be an ‘uncivilized act’.”
While Croatia’s constitution does theoretically ensure freedom of the press, some legal hurdles ensure it isn’t absolute.
Poorly-defined legal offenses, such as humiliation, defamation and insulting “the Republic, its emblem, its national hymn or flag” all carry some form of punishment, yet their broad definition has served as a catch-all to stymie press coverage. Some are trial-less, meaning a journalist does not even have an opportunity to prove his or her reporting was factually correct.
However, there are no laws prohibiting innaccurate Facebook lists.