Open Letter to STJEPAN MESIC President of the Republic of Croatia

Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) is deeply concerned by the blocking, on 1st March 2002, of the bank account of Feral Tribune, an independent weekly journal.

Paris, 20th March 2002

Mr. President,

This decision was succeeded to two judicial sentences on October 2001, by the County Court of Zagreb which has also condemned the journal to a fine of 34.900 euros for "moral damage" and "publishing cosmopolitan views and opinions", under the article 22, par. 1 and 5 of the Law on Public Informing and national journals, the first ones which imposes such a heavy fines.

These decisions, whose goal is clearly to cause a serious damage to the financial situation of the Feral Tribune are based on two articles published respectively in 1993 and 1995. The first one written by the art historian Zvonco Makovic analyses the incompetence of Marica Mestrovic, daughter of the famous Croatian sculptor I. Mestrovic, to manage the Mestrovic Foundation, a responsibility which was given to her by the Tudjman regime. The second signed by the author Victor Ivancic, editor of the journal, criticises the anti-Semitism and pro-fascist attitudes of Zelsko Olujic, a lawyer with close ties to former President Tudjman. The journal has, already, appealed these decisions but the procedure in front of the Supreme Court has not a postponing effect on the execution of the decisions.

The Feral Tribune has been a voice of liberal and constructive criticism for more than ten years and its contribution to the creation of an environment of free media and political pluralism is essential.
However, this is not the first time that Feral Tribune is under attack. There have been several legal proceedings which aimed to censor this satirical journal by using the article 71 of the Croatian Penal Code which forbids, among others, publishing or broad casting information deemed "untrue" and which can injure the "honour and reputation" of public officials. In 2000, the Constitutional Court declared this legal provision unconstitutional.

The FIDH considers this sentence as arbitrary since it violates the freedom of expression and the freedom of the media.

The FIDH urges the Croatian authorities to ensure that the bank account of Feral Tribune be unfreeze so that it continues to publish normally and to ensure that justice will conform in complete accordance with the rule of Law.

The FIDH also demands to the Croatian authorities to respect and apply fully the articles 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which the Republic of Croatia is a member-part. The Law on Public Informing and national journals should be modified in conformity with these human rights instruments which guaranties the freedom of expression and the freedom of media.

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