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News 05 Apr 17

Language Rant Shocks Croatian Leftist Daily's Staff

Denunciation of the 'Common Language Declaration' in the left-wing Croatian daily Novi list - calling it a 'freak' - has appalled some staff and readers.

Sven Milekic
BIRN
Zagreb
Novi list's logo on the front page. Photo: Facebook/Novi list

Sources from the left-wing Croatian daily Novi list say staff are shocked over the publication in their paper of an opinion piece condemning the recently signed Declaration on the Common Language as a Yugoslav trick.

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

Staff on Novi list, which based in the city of Rijeka, were startled when the paper on Saturday published an opinion piece by a little known conservative writer, Davor Velnic, which called the Declaration “a preamble to a third Yugoslavia, a new Yugoslav freak”.

The online version of the article was unsigned, nor there was any disclaimer.

“An article like this absolutely shouldn’t be published. Novi list has never published a text like that,” one anonymous source from the daily told BIRN.

“This is shocking for a newspaper that was always prouder of its professionalism than of the number of copies it sold. The credo of Novi list was professionalism and … that rule was never broken to get a readership,” he said.

“This piece shouldn’t have been published in any newspaper and especially not in Novi list … a symbol of tolerance and of different views of society from the rest of mainstream media in Croatia,” another source from the newspaper told BIRN.

“It shouldn’t have been published as a post in the comment section ... because it incites hatred against the whole city [Rijeka] and against people mentioned with their full names, even expressing hidden threats,” the source continued.

Some staffers are reportedly pointing the finger at editor-in-chief, Robert Franck, who did not respond to BIRN’s request for a comment.

Besides claiming that the Declaration essentially supports pro-Yugoslav and Greater Serbian aspirations, Vejnic also claimed the local branch of the centre-left Social Democratic Party, SDP, supported a “SAO Rijeka Project”.

The reference was to so-called "Serb Autonomous Regions" [of Krajina, etc], which breakway 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. 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,” Velnic added.

Mention of the “SAO Rijeka Project” recalls an unsigned article published on the far-right news site Dnevno.hr in February in which a group of academics – under the name “Let's Save Rijeka” – said they opposed “the hegemonic plans of Great Serbian ideology to take over academic and cultural institutions in Rijeka.

Novi list reported on the case at the time, accusing the authors of hate speech.

Although sources on Novi list could not confirm whether the authors of the recent comment article and the article in February were one and the same, they said it was legitimate to draw such conclusions "as the style is similar”.

In 2016 Novi list found a new owner, the Czech and Slovak J&T investment fund, through their subsidiary JOJ Media House.

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