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News 13 Apr 17

Croatian Newspaper Condemns Own Article for Intolerance

The editorial council of Croatian left-wing newspaper Novi list condemned an article published in its own pages that denounced an anti-nationalist public declaration about the similarities in ex-Yugoslav languages.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Novi list. Photo: Flickr/Ivana Rezek

After criticism in the media, the editorial council of the Croatian leftist daily Novi list strongly criticised an opinion piece which was published in the newspaper in early April, in which the writer denounced the recently-signed Declaration on the Common Language.

The anti-nationalist declaration, supported by thousands of people in Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Montenegro, claimed that Croatian, Serbian, Bosnian and Montenegrin are all dialects of the same polycentric language.

But the opinion piece, by a little-known conservative writer, Davor Velnic, alleged that the declaration essentially supports pro-Yugoslav and Greater Serbian aspirations.

Journalist Denis Romac, one of the members of the editorial council – responsible for monitoring the implementation of the editorial statute of Novi list – told BIRN that the council believes the article breaches the statute.

“According to our judgment, it breaches article 1, which stipulates what kind of values Novi list represents: human rights, democracy, the rule of law, human dignity. This article represents a negation of all these values,” he said.

The opinions expressed in the piece represent a change in the editorial policy of Novi list and therefore breach another article of the statute, which stipulates that the editorial policy of the newspaper can be changed, but only if initiated by the publisher and agreed upon by the editorial staff and the director, Romic added.

Novi list’s director Ankica Kruljac declined to comment on the issue to BIRN, only saying that public statements will be made once the second member of the management board – representing the newspaper’s new owner, Slovakian JOJ Media House – reads the English translation of the editorial council’s conclusion.

The opinion piece by Velnic called the declaration “a preamble to a third Yugoslavia, a new Yugoslav freak”.

The article also angered staff at Novi list, which is based in the city of Rijeka, by alleging that the local branch of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, SDP, supported a “SAO Rijeka Project”.

The ‘SAO’ acronym refers to so-called "Serb Autonomous Regions" which breakaway Serbs established in Croatia in the early 1990s and from which Croats and other non-Serbs were violently expelled.

“The SAO Rijeka Project is why Serbian diplomacy, with the help of [former Croatian Foreign Minister], Vesna Pusic, Ivo Josipovic [former President] and [professor] Dejan Jovic worked for the city to become the 2020 European Capital of Culture,” Velnic claimed in the article.

“It’s not about the promotion of Croatian culture in Rijeka but it is about the promotion of Yugoslav culture in the Yugoslav Rijeka under the watchful eye of Belgrade,” he added.

One source at the newspaper told BIRN earlier this month that such comments incite “hatred against the whole city”.

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