News 10 Jun 16

Croatian Deputy Minister Accused of Wartime Witch-Hunt

Current deputy tourism minister Robert Pauletic was an editor at controversial wartime newspaper Slobodni Tjednik when it published lists of ‘enemies of Croatia’, media reported.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Robert Pauletic. Photo: Facebook.

Croatian weekly newspaper Novosti reported on Friday that while Pauletic was editor-in-chief and deputy editor of Slobodni Tjednik in 1991, it published lists of people alleged to be pro-Serb ‘Chetniks’, agents of the Yugoslav Counter-Intelligence Agency, KOS, or enemies of the Croatian state.

Those named were mostly Serbs and former or current members of the Yugoslav People’s Army, JNA, but some were Croats.

In September 1991, Slobodni Tjednik published a list of some 30 JNA soldiers and others from the eastern city of Osijek who it accused of “planning attacks on the city centre”.

One of them was a JNA lieutenant, a Croat, who was incarcerated by the JNA at the time for trying to join the newly-formed Croatian Army.

Unable to contact him, the lieutenant’s father committed suicide 12 days after the article was published.

According to statements from the family given to Croatian journalist Drago Hedl, one of the motives for the suicide was the father’s shame after the article was published. His son did not want to comment on the case to Novosti.

Another article in June 1991, while Pauletic was deputy editor, headlined “14 Apostles of Evil”, had a list of people accused of being KOS agents in the town of Sisak in Central Croatia.

One of the people on the list was a pensioner called Dragan Rajsic. Rajsic went for a walk in early August 1991, went missing and was never seen again.

Rajsic’s family confirmed to Croatian anti-establishment newspaper Feral Tribune in 1995 that he had no problems in Sisak before the article was published, but experienced harassment afterwards.

Slobodni Tjednik was known for its inflammatory reporting on sensitive wartime issues, but had a large readership around the time of the start of the fighting in Croatia in 1991.

Pauletic, back then a young and unexperienced journalist, more known for his successes at TV quizzes, was named the editor-in-chief of the newspaper in August 1991, after only few months of working as editor’s deputy and few months of working as a journalist in general.

He left the job in late September 1991.

After leaving, Pauletic accused the newspaper of a lack of professionalism, but has not expressed regret about the articles he wrote or those written by other contributors during his time as editor-in-chief.

He told media in February that he was “proud of everything I have ever written”.

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