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So called independent journalists
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US troops in Iraq open fire
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Each side risks using
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Journalists Die
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MSNBC's Banfield:
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Hollywood revives McCarthyist climate
by silencing and sacking war critics

"Any questions,
Madam Secretary?"

  Most of all I want to hear from you ...  There was something what made that August 30, 1998 U.S. Secretary of State, Madeleine K. Albright's meeting with journalists in Zagreb, Croatia, at least a unique one: In a long conversation with Croatian journalists, organised by the U.S. Embassy in Zagreb which hand-picked journalists to be invited and presented to the Secretary of State, there was not a single question from any of so called "independent journalists" present, except when one of them asked Ms. Albright: "Any questions?".
One could say: What a heck is that journalism all about, if they accepted the meeting "behind the closed door" to brief the foreign Secretary of State on their "first hand testimonies"? And who was to benefit out of it, knowing that Secretary of State has been already "well informed" about the press in the Republic of Croatia by the Embassy resident officials whose regular task is to cover open (and other) sources in Croatia?
Well, the key to answer that question is the same as the key used by those resident U.S. officials to choose which journalists had to be invited to the meeting with their chief from Washington. Journalists would confirm their reports and Madeleine K. Albright left Zagreb satisfied with their good work. By the way, as well as the the US officials mentioned, all these "independent journalists" (including some not present at this briefing) were supporting Croatian opposition parties.

Interested in where they are now,
after the opposition won 2001 ellections ?
CAUTION: Don't get confused reading this U.S. State Dept. transcript ; Usualy in interview or briefing transcripts word "QUESTION" is referring to journalist's question, and word "ANSWER" is referring to the answer to that journalist's question. Unfortunatelly, at this Secretary Albright's unusual briefing with journalists everything went upside-down; It was Secretary Albright who was asking questions, and Croatian "independent journalists" were giving answers.

How do you get your paper?
We buy it on the market.

And that's not a monopoly?
That's not controlled?

QUESTION: Any questions?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much for a very interesting presentation. I have many different questions...

(As released by the Office of the Spokesman, U.S. Department of State)
"It is better to know
some of the questions
than all of the answers."

James Thurber

Secretary of State
Madeleine K. Albright

Meeting With Independent Media Representatives

Hotel Sheraton Zagreb, Croatia, August 30, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman,
U.S. Department of State

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me begin a little bit more formally than usual. I want to thank you for giving me the opportunity to meet with you and to salute you for the work you are doing on behalf of free expression and independent journalism in Croatia. Some people believe patriotism requires conformity of viewpoints. You understand that true patriotism means love of country, not support for any particular government or ideology. You know that Croatia's standing and image in the world depend on the extent to which it welcomes the diversity of peoples, cultures, and beliefs that have long coexisted here.

The United States recognizes that this is a nation with many political voices and an active opposition. We have urged democratic reform and respect for a free media so that there is a level playing field for all. We have said that Croatia can rejoin Europe, but only as an open and democratic society. And we believe it takes a good deal more than elections to build democracy. It requires respect for the rule of law and for minority views. And it requires an independent media to keep leaders accountable.
Croatian Press News in English
March 30, 1998

'FORUM 21'
ZAGREB - "Croatia rightfully wishes to become a full member of Euro-Atlantic institutions, but to achieve this it has to meet certain standards including the freedom of expression and an independent judiciary, said Robert Gelbard, following his Sunday meeting with members of the ‘Forum 21’.
The meeting was held behind closed doors. The United States considers the freedom of expression and an independent judiciary to be the two most important aspects of a democratic society, stated Gelbard. It is obvious that Croatia has to make progress in these two areas, Gelbard concluded adding that these two questions would continue to be of great importance for American - Croatian relations.
Asked what concrete steps Croatia should take, Gelbard mentioned offering electronic media, TV and radio concessions, as well as resolving some problems concerning the press.
Briefing on pluralism and
tolerance in Croatia

Wednesday, May 13, 1998
Commission on Security
and Cooperation in Europe
Washington, DC
Forum 21 is an association of the most respected Croatian radio and TV journalists formed in order to promote professionalism and independent journalism in electronic media. The key objective of Forum 21 is the transformation of the National TV network, that is currently run by the governing council of the ruling party, the Forum 21 wants to transform the TV network into politically unbiased public TV, so it is not surprising that Monsignor Bozanic invited the association to his personal audience. But, it is also not surprising that the ruling party does not want to engage in direct talks with that association. Forum 21 by the way, received political support from key players of the international community, including U.S. Ambassador William Montgomery.  The European Union has recently recognized that Forum 21 raised an issue ``crucial to the process of the democratization in Croatia,'' and pledged financial support. USAID announced a $30,000.00 grant to ``Forum 21,'' a gesture welcomed with cautious optimism, since it constitutes the first U.S. financial contribution to electronic media in Croatia. Now, many hope that this grant signals a new American realization that if there is to be peace in Bosnia the electronic media need to be helped in the whole region of ex-Yugoslavia. While visiting Zagreb, Ambassador Gelbard recently met with the Forum 21 delegation, as did Senator Bob Dole.     PDF file (Full text, pdf)

We are proud that we have been able to support your work, through our diplomacy, through our aid programs, and through the efforts of Ambassador Montgomery. We will continue to do so. In fact, our policy on this issue was set by our first Secretary of State, Thomas Jefferson, who said that given a choice between "a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate to prefer the latter." I want to thank you again for your efforts to give all the people of conscience in this country a voice, and most of all I want to hear from you.

Let me just say before we begin that I have been especially looking forward to this meeting, not so much as Secretary of State, but as Madeleine Albright who used to write in my academic life about the role of the press and political change. And my dissertation was about the role of the Czech press in the "Prague Spring" and I wrote a book about the Polish press during the Solidarity period, and so I have been always particularly interested in the role of the media in bringing about political change. And so meeting with all of you here is not just of interest to me as the American Secretary of State but as someone who is very, very interested in the kind of work that you are doing, and the role that you are playing in opening up Croatia. So I'd be very interested if you could tell me about Forum 21's strategy to reform the Croatian media.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you very much for your invitation and your great support for all Croatian journalists, not only for our group, for all Croatian journalists who would like to promote and defend fair and impartial media. We would also like to thank you for your support from the democratic, international community. But we still think that those problems of media must be and should be resolved within our house, only by dialogue, and the problem is that this dialogue is still to be accepted by the present authorities. This is the biggest problem.

Anyway, before I give a word to my colleague, Drazen Vukov Colic, who will describe the global media situation in Croatia, I would like to give you a small gift. This is a translation of an American book, "Freedom of Expression Handbook," that was edited by the Croatian Journalists Association, and this is the first step to develop a conscience of how media are important for all our members, and here is the program of Forum 21 in English. So, this is our small gift and it was edited also with the help of American donators.


QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary. We understand very well that freedom of the media is not a God given gift from the powerful to the obedient. So we are trying to seize that opportunity with both hands in every issue, every program, every article. I am going very shortly to inform you what the general public in Croatia thinks about freedom of the media. There was recently research done on that subject, and it is very indicative that the statement that "There is no democracy, full democracy, without full media freedom," is supported by 70% of the people. The second important question of "What is the level, the general state of the freedom of the media today in Croatia? Much higher and in a much better state than it was before in the former state?" and affirmative answer is only by 40% of the people. So 60% of the people are not satisfied with the state of the freedom of the media in Croatia.

Features: Media: Dossiers
Radio Netherlands Media Network
    In January 1998 the European Commission special envoy to Croatia, supported the ideas of Forum 21 an association formed by a group of journalists) on democratisation of the electronic media as a key issue to advance the democratic process in Croatia. The democratisation of electronic media in Croatia, and particularly the establishment of an independent television, is one of the top priorities set by the EU related to reactivating negotiations between the EU and Croatia.
    The envoy told Forum 21 journalists that the EU would consider the possibility of not only political, but also financial support to Forum 21, as the European Commission had financial means aimed at supporting and assisting free media in Croatia.
    In February the envoy said independent Croatian media received DM 3m of help in 1997 from the Commission which also set aside DM 5m for independent media in 1998.
    In February 1998 the Council of Europe pledged to set up a complete legal package for media in Albania. Albania had asked for financial assistance for their media.
    In May 1998 the British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, disclosed that Britain had secretly financed the pro-democracy clandestine Radio FM 98.1 used by President Kabbah’s exiled civilian government to mobilise support in Sierra Leone for the restoration of democracy.
    Source: Radio Nederland Wereldomroep
*) The president and the executive management of Croatian Journalists' Association - even when publicly asked by its Assembly delegates at anual conferences - never disclosed to its members any figures related to the financial funds received from foreign governments.
There is the second important question which would partially concern our meeting too. That is the statement that the international community uses the question of the media freedom in an unfair way, as a tool for unjust political pressure. Believe it or not, that statement is believed in Croatia by 32% of people. So you see, by those examples, what is the vision, in the public mind, in the public opinion. The second important question is what are the most important sources of the information on the media market.

The most important sources, of course, are the influential ones. And now we have the data which are not very encouraging for print media which are much more free than electronic media, TV and radio. So, the print media are much more free but their influence is very, very low and very limited. That shows the following: HTV, the state-controlled television station, is regularly taken as the most important source of information by 74% percent of the population. Dailies, which four out of six are state-controlled, but nevertheless as the main source of information, dailies are influencing only 8% of the population. And when we are talking about weeklies, which are also very important, they represent the main source of information for only 2-3% of the population. If one compares these facts, I mean the fact that information by oral communication, by conversation with friends, and family, that the main source of news oral communication is by 5% -- 2% more than the weeklies! So that's a general point.

I will tell you a few words about the division in the print media. It's colloquially dependent and nationally constructive, state-building media which do not exist anywhere else except in Croatia. So, the main division lines do not lie in some explicit ideological differences, but in values, in relation toward criticism of the ruling structure, in relation to most important democratic values, in relation to opening of Croatia to the world, in relation to taking up and confirming ourselves to the highest values and standards of the Western civilization. Those are the division lines. And, along those lines the polemics are going, very, very hard polemics, which are taking place almost every day between independent and so called state-controlled media. Of course, the print media are relatively more free than the electronic ones, but the state is trying to impose its will even on that freer parts of the media landscape by law suits, hundreds of them, both against journalists and newspapers, and by very limited and monopolistic distribution network for selling newspapers, and also by some kind of unjust taxes and financial pressure on the independent print media.
Jagoda Vukusic, president of the Croatian Journalists' Association and Peter Galbraith, U.S. Ambassador having fun at a party Jagoda organized  Peter Galbraith , U.S. Ambassador in Zagreb (Croatia) and Jagoda Vukusic , lady president of the Croatian Journalists' Association ( HND - Hrvatsko novinarsko drustvo ) having fun at the closed party for the HND Central Board and several other hand-picked Croatian journalists as a tribute to their productive cooperation with the U.S. Embassy.

During Ambassador Galbraith's mandate in Zagreb, American Embassy and the U. S. government agencies achieved the strongest influence on the Croatian Journalists' Association as well as on several independent newspapers and radio stations in order to help them to avoid the influence of the Croatian government on Croatian media...

 So called 'independent newspapers' So, now, when it is under the patronage of the U.S. government they call it
- independent media...

Croatia on the Verge
Journalists under the patronage
by Neven Crvenkovic, East European Studies
Forum 21 has also received strong political support from the international community. Western ambassadors to Zagreb, including the United States' William Montgomery, have attended panel discussions organized by the Forum. During his January visit to Croatia as chairman of the International Commission for Missing Persons in former Yugoslavia, Senator Bob Dole also met with representatives of
Forum 21.
 So called 'independent newspapers' USAID director Brian Atwood announced a grant of $ 30,000 to support Forum activities. In addition, the EU has signaled it also would financially help Forum 21 because it has raised an issue "crucial to the process of democratization in Croatia."
The popularity of Forum 21 in Croatia and its growing Western patronage make it increasingly difficult for the ruling party to exert pressure against this association.    (Full text)
Let me conclude with only a few words about the Croatian Journalists' Association because I am also speaking on behalf of it. Our lady president is unfortunately absent, she is sending you her warmest and most cordial regards. The leadership of our association is very liberal, we must say, and that's very, very important. Very active in defending the freedom of the press, very open in promoting the international cooperation. Only one fact to illustrate that: Under the umbrella of the organizational network, Forum 21 was also built as part of the Journalists' Association, which is of course promoting the idea of public television, and with that I would like to conclude my remarks. Thank you very much, I was personally very encouraged by your opening statement.

QUESTION: Thank you. I must say that Forum 21 is not a political party or political group, because we think that journalism must be separated from politics. We must deal with politics because politics deals with us, but we think that one day these two things will be finally separated.

I think that the biggest problem in Croatia is that politics still directly controls the great majority of the media, including the biggest and the most influential one which is HRT (Croatian Radio and Television) . HRT is still the most influential media, the most visible, and the most controlled one. We see that the ruling party is trying to keep control over the public TV as long as possible, because six months ago Forum 21 proposed a change of the law on public broadcasting and we sent this proposal to all members of parliament, but the opposition parties were the only ones to accept our proposal, our draft, but this proposal was turned down in parliament by HDZ. We are now waiting for their new draft.
Time Goes and
Time Will Come...
Forum 21
by Igor Markovic and Dejan Krsic
ARKzin, Zagreb, Croatia, Issue 5, March 1998

On Monday, January 19, at the Journalists' Hall, the journalists from Forum 21 organized a discussion about so called Black lists on Television and cancellation of their programs. "I've had enough of this media self-adoration tirade! Why haven't you spoken out before? Why haven't you raised hell after the first ban," asked Ivan Zvonimir Cicak , president of the Croatian Helsinki Committee . Igor Mirkovic responded on behalf of Forum : "We couldn't decide whether to charge at windmills or wait for a better time. I personally put my trust in the tactics of incremental changes," adding that "the public wasn't ready at the time; while people were in the war it didn't make sense to fight for a single news item."

"But you were supposed to shape public opinion!", Cicak responded.

Dubravko Merlic answered with a question: "What if we tendered resignations after a first problem? We authentically [sic] fought from inside".

Yes, they authentically fought from inside as the current members of HDZ used to authentically undermine the Communist regime as members of the Yugoslav League of Communists! Actually, Merlic makes a slip of tongue, they indeed "authentically" and totally from "inside" fought for the goals of Croatian nationalist ideology, for a "victory in the war"; only after that victory is achieved, the time will come to "fight for a single news item". They have learned that cynical journalistic lesson: in war the truth is the first victim.

HDZ couldn't have succeeded in that without active collaboration of these media "professionals", from Dubravko Merlic to Hloverka Novak Srzic and Denis Latin (an anchor in early warmongering news programs and later the long time editor of Slikom na Sliku [With Picture on Picture]), Branimir Bilic, Tihomir Ladisic, Željka Ogresta (who saw nothing wrong in hosting a moronic talk show during the war and at the same time avoiding to ask any real questions!), Mirjana Rakic, Igor Mirkovic , and Silvana Mendjusic to the employees at the democratic Radio [Radio 101] which was proud to be the first one to let Tudjman on the air waves!

It is a fact that the journalists from Forum 21 until recently haven't reacted to a single ban, it is a fact that they haven't reacted to a single dismissal of their colleagues. Just the opposite, quite often they jumped into somebody else's still warm chair. And now, when they are threatened with dismissals, they have remembered to raise voices (backed up with the United States of America which has invested too much in this region to allow the failure of the process of reintegration and peace building). Only when they themselves were "banned", actually when some of their shows were no longer necessary in the daily indoctrination of the public, they decided to rebel against censorship. And while the whole HDZ passed through their shows and the opposition leaders (both civic and political) were only random guests, they had nothing against bans. "The time wasn't ripe".
   (Full text)

U.S. IRS eyed tax records
of critical journalis

Treasury investigation report shows
audit began with White House tip

In the meantime, personnel changes at the top of HRT are not enough, because we must change the system. So, whether the new director is more liberal or less liberal than the previous one is not so important, because the system should be changed. It means above all legislation. We must change the legislation and adopt a modern broadcast law, as well as a law on private broadcasting, because these issues are connected. Also, this new law or any other law should be applied. Application of this law or any other law is very important, because our present law is not very bad, but is not being applied and that is also a problem.

The biggest problem clearly is that the office of the President of the Republic should not play the role of the editor-in-chief of all media, electronic and print. This is a very big, a very important issue. We think that the democratization of HRT, introducing the common Western standards, is essential for Croatia, because this is the most important source of information. We think that HRT needs deep and complete reform, not only by certain personalities at the top, and we as Forum 21 are ready to cooperate, but so far the ruling party has refused the dialogue. This is a very big problem.

I must stress that HRT is not the only problem. There is also the problem of small private TV and radio stations, you will hear more from my colleague, but in any case, Forum 21 will continue to fight for reform of the complete media landscape in Croatia in trying to introduce professional and democratic standards which for the moment are absent.

There is another problem also, how to reform the system, and we sent proposals. At this moment, I think that the most important issue is privatization of the third channel, and my colleague Dubravko Merlic will explain why.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, thank you for supporting free media in Croatia. I am Dubravko Merlic, I am a member of Forum 21, but also I am an employee of HRT, with a lot of personal problems because there is no way a professional journalist can work in that house, yet.

We believe that HRT should be changed from not state-controlled but party, or to be more specific, President's office-controlled institution to public institution, and beside changes of the law, we think that the best way to improve the situation at HRT is to have competition. That's why we in Forum 21 and I can say the general public in Croatia, we believe that the third channel, the existing third channel of Croatian Television, should be privatized because that's the fastest and the cheapest way to have competition and private media.

The ruling party believes that the fourth, non-existing channel, should be given for competition for private investment. But that will be small and expensive and won't affect next parliamentary elections. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you. Drazen Vukov Colic also mentioned a very important problem, distribution, control of the distribution of the press. So probably Sanja Modrić should explain.

QUESTION: I am very glad to meet you here in Zagreb. My name is Sanja Modrić, I am assistant editor-in-chief for domestic political affairs. My newspaper is a daily newspaper, it's rather new, it has been on the market for less than five months, and since we are concerned with the circulation, we are now the second daily newspaper in Croatia, we should have a lot of money, a huge amount of money every day, because we really sell our newspaper every day in more than 80,000 copies.

But we are in trouble. This is because, it may sound bizarre, but our product is sold by -- I'll tell you whom, and we just don't get our money back for this transaction. This is because the distribution in this country is really terribly monopolized. The firm which distributes printed press in Croatia has existed for tens of years, but it was privatized recently, several years ago, and the most influential man in this firm, is called Tisak, or roughly translated Print, is a man with a very strong political background in political circles, and what he does, well, everybody who comes from abroad tells us don't sell newspapers through Tisak. But in this country we don't have, we have some other distributors, but they are either very small or have a very limited regional network.

So, we are actually being blackmailed, we have to work with him and he won't give us the money back. So this is not only the problem of Jutarnji List, it is also the problem of, I don't know, Feral Tribune and Nacional and all other independent newspapers. But, we don't see any solution to this problem so far, because we don't have any other choice. People from abroad, again, would say or say very frequently, why don't publishers sue him? Well, Feral Tribune has tried that, but the problem of courts and justice in this country is that they are very, very slow. So, if you get the verdict in five years, you are under the ground.

What our publishers do is they try to bargain, they try to get at least small amounts, they wait for three months, for five months. This is one of the most serious problems of the independent print media.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: How do you get your paper?

QUESTION: We buy it on the market.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: And that's not a monopoly? That's not controlled?


QUESTION: The government also tries to control not only the print media, but all those small private radio and TV stations. Zrinka Vrabec Mojzes is the editor-in-chief --

QUESTION: Ex-editor-in-chief. I work for one of the rare independent radio stations which managed to survive in this country. Radio 101 was founded as the first independent students' radio station during communist times, 14 years ago. Since 1995 we have had to struggle to keep our own frequency, and to keep our own independence, and we were saved thanks to the biggest demonstration which took place about two and a half years ago on the main square in Zagreb, when 120,000 people demonstrated because they did not want the state to take over our station and to have it shut down.

But we are one of the examples of how local media in this country, which are really having troubles to survive and to operate positively in the financial way. The key body which decides about the destiny of independent media in this country is the Telecommunications Council which is appointed by the parliament and, as in every democratic country, it should decide about licenses according to the quality of feasibility studies offered to the Council. However, this Council is actually formed by high-ranking politicians from the ruling party, and not by media professionals, journalists, or people who are just public personalities, and it actually does not decide about licenses, evaluating the programs which are offered, but it rather evaluates appropriateness of the existing or future owners of a certain media.

So, things look very nice on paper, they say there are more than 120 pilot radio stations in the country, and there are about 15 pilot local TV stations in the country, but in real life, more than 90% of those local media are actually controlled by the ruling party, through their owners, which are members or relatives or friends of the people from the ruling party.

What they actually do is they either deny you a license or they try to destroy you financially, or they try to make power transmitters so weak that you can't reach anybody, and this is the recipe they actually use in every other case in the country. Radio 101 was saved because it's a local radio station but it broadcasts here in Zagreb, which is the capital of Croatia and where people are brave enough to go out into the streets and demonstrate. But in small urban areas, people are still frightened, people have been threatened by different members of the ruling party, they can lose jobs, they can do very bad things to them, and this is why people are frightened to actually say something, and this is why many local independent radio stations were shut down during the past few years.

And now those which are able to broadcast, which have their legal papers, they are now facing financial problems. This is being done in a more subtle way. They say OK, you have your license, but it's almost impossible to make high-quality standard programs and to make enough money to pay people to do those programs. And all the donations which these local radio and TV stations have received are not enough. Unfortunately, they can buy new equipment, but there isn't enough money to pay everyday's programs. This is one problem. On the other hand, the minute you receive donations you are accused of being a traitor of your country, paid by agents of CIA or FBI, or whoever, it doesn't matter. It's very difficult to work for an independent media, because they know that you can't make money, you can't pay people, and, on the other hand, in public, by the state-owned media, you are accused all the time of working against your own country, of being a traitor, of doing bad things in collaboration with the bad international community and the United States, and this xenophobia is something that has been around.

QUESTION: It seems that we have a very, very sensitive government. If you try to write or publish something slightly critical, they automatically seek protection from the courts. So, Vesna Alaburic is a lawyer with caseloads of over five hundred cases.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, besides our efforts to establish a legal framework, which would be really democratic and liberal, we have a lot of work every day with lawsuits against journalists and publishers. At this moment in this country, we are world champions in the number of law suits. We have more than five hundred cases -- criminal cases and civil proceedings.

The criminal cases are against journalists who are accused for defamation and insults, and civil cases are against publishers for damages. About ninety percent of plaintiffs are public figures, mostly politicians, members of their families, and businessmen who are closely connected to the government. So, I had the opportunity to know almost all members of our political establishment, because they all sue some journalist or some publisher. I know all members of our government, maybe even the President, if he recalls being subpoenaed as a witness to one of those cases, and other businessmen and other persons.

I wouldn't bother you very much with that, but I would like to stress just three problems with that. Concerning criminal proceedings, the problem is that there is a tremendous chilling effect. If journalists are fined for publishing the truth, you can't believe it, but they could be sentenced to imprisonment because of publishing the truth. That is why the Croatian Journalist's Association, besides efforts in the last two years to have a more democratic and liberal penal code, has planned to start campaigning for the reform of penal codes. Concerning civil proceedings, the problems are extremely high amount of damages that are given to plaintiffs and can really cause the bankruptcy of independent publishers. There is probably no need to stress that, if Feral Tribune would get two verdicts for about fifty thousand dollars, then Feral Tribune would be bankrupt.

 U.S. Ambassador William Dale Montgomery and his wife 
visited Croatian Journalists'  Association 
immediately after they came to Zagreb, Croatia, 
before any other official visit.
As Croatian Journalists' Association proudly published, U.S. Ambassador William Dale Montgomery and his wife visited Croatian Journalists' Association immediately after they came to Zagreb, Croatia, before any other official visit. On the right is Damir Matkovic of the US backed "Foum 21".
Of course, we can go to Strasbourg and the European court of human rights after all the legal steps in our country. That could mean that in five or six years we could win the case in Strasbourg, but Feral Tribune or some other independent publisher would go bankrupt in the meantime. But, these problems are concerning our judiciary. We have some very good independent judges, but in general we really can't count on an independent judiciary. That's why all these cases are extremely important and have a tremendous chilling effect, and we would like to change something concerning that. We are trying to do that by publishing this book, we are preparing another one with verdicts of the European court of human rights, to introduce European standards to our courts.

We organized a lot of panel discussions and cooperated very much with lawyers and judges from European countries and the U.S. We think that in a couple of years, we'll have a democratic legal framework and proper courts of practice as in other European countries, but the question is who will survive until then. I would just like to tell you that we really highly appreciate all the help and support that are given to us by the U.S. Government and non-government organizations, officials and activists, and that we are very glad to have U.S. Ambassador to Croatia Mr. Montgomery, because he is really our friend. He is very willing to help us whenever we need it, even he initiates it. Thank you very much.

QUESTION: How our judicial system functions in those cases can be illustrated with the case of our colleague Gordana Grbic.

QUESTION: Ms. Secretary, thank you for this opportunity. In the beginning, I would like to say something very personal. As a woman, I am very satisfied that such an important position in the U.S. administration is held by such a capable woman as you are. I am very satisfied, because in three days the Croatian Television has to abide by the court verdict and allow me to return to my previous place as a journalist on Croatian Television.

No kidding?!  Željka Ogresta was complaining to the U.S. Secretary of State for working in the Ententairnment Program of the Croatian TV . . . Six years ago, I was fired illegally and, until now, they had shown any wish to do that. I will insist on providing the court's decision although currently I don't intend to go back. I'm quite satisfied with the daily newspaper Novi List, where I am working now, and I don't think that, at this moment and in these circumstances, I could do my journalist job as professionally on Croatian Television as I can in Novi List. So, I'm really happy that I don't depend on Croatian Television and that I do not have to work there and that I have a choice to do my job in Novi List.

QUESTION: And our colleague Željka Ogresta, one of the best and most popular TV journalists in Croatia was removed from the screen two years ago, without any explanation and she is still not working. She's just receiving her salary and is not working. She will describe her case. No kidding?! Željka Ogresta was complaining to the U.S. Secretary of State for working in Ententairnment Program of the Croatian TV . . .

No kidding?!  Željka Ogresta was complaining to the U.S. Secretary of State for working in Ententairnment Program of the Croatian TV . . . QUESTION: Thank you Madam Secretary for coming.
I would just like to let you know that the funny thing is that I am part of the entertainment media, but, as you know, the chief editor of the entertainment division has to be a party official. So, you can imagine how entertaining that combination is.

QUESTION: We have unofficial information that the President of the Republic does not like Zeljka's face, so she was removed. Any questions?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much for a very interesting presentation. I have many different questions.

I just met with the opposition leaders and they clearly feel that they do not have access to the official networks, etc. I think it would be very important for you all to work together, even though there should never be any collusion between the press and politicians. I think that it's very important. I think they are looking for avenues of expression and they have decided to work together as a coalition, which I think is very encouraging. So, there is a natural kind of partnership.

I have to say, listening to you, that my mind just went back a lot about the subjects that I was researching and writing about in looking at press in communist societies and many of the issues are not different, it's mostly one party's problems. It was very interesting.

For instance, the Czech press in 1968, what began to happen was that -- especially people on television or radio, because it's harder to censor, would just start talking, whereas in newspapers there is a censor system, where you have to submit and there was a certain amount of time. So, clearly, when one wants to make trouble, then speaking out openly, unless they closed down all the transmitters. But, also, in terms of distribution, again, I studied a great deal how Solidarity press managed to get around a similar system, where there was a monopoly of the distribution of newspapers through the little kiosks that they have in Poland. So, they developed their own distribution system which was very rudimentary, but basically we have a different situation here, because you don't have a labor network that is on your side.

It was basically all done by individuals distributing papers in their cars. So, you have, in a strange way, a system that may be more complicated, or a problem that is more complicated, because this is not a straightforward communist system and opposition that is outside of it that is trying to develop an opposition network through its media. But, many of the problems are very similar. I think that it's essential though that you're able to do the kind of work that you do, getting around it. We would like to help you, as much as possible. But, obviously, you raised the problems of outside help seems tainted.

QUESTION: Although we're grateful for every help that we receive, the problem is, as I told you, it's much easier to be a commercial radio station playing music and advertisements, because then you don't have any problems with money. The minute that you start to make a program which can influence people and which can do something about changing the political situation, you need money for this program and you can't make the money to do it. On the other side, advertising goes to the state-controlled media or they just don't pay you. This is the best way. You have lots of adverts on the air and nobody pays you.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: This goes to a question that I was going to ask is whether you are in a position to cover the difficult issues of refugee returns, or support for Dayton, etc.

QUESTION: We cover everything. The problem is very specifically, thinking about what is going to be with the program of Radio 101 which is listened by people who are opinion makers in this country, is can we have enough money to do what we used to do two or three years ago next autumn, because for each of those programs reporters could go to report to different places, all the programs which are done live, discussions with phone-ins, high ranking officials from all the parties on the air all the time. We need good professionals to do it, and professionals working in the local media in this country are facing the basic problem of pure survival. This is not a question of making a lot of money. It is a question of can I survive with what I earn. This is the problem with local media. At the state-owned media, you always receive your salary, no matter how low it is, but you do receive it.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I know you get help from various independent aspects of our government, but do you find help from journalists from other countries --

QUESTION: Yes, we do. There is a so-called journalistic network, under the auspices of the journalistic union, our association, which is solely supported by some American and European foundations. Very often we have professors which are chosen by part domestic and part international. Journalists from around the world come to our school and it was officially proclaimed lately in the European Journalistic Union as the best journalistic workshop in all transitional countries. So, we are very well connected with our colleagues all over the world and the countries are very important in our recognition, because our lady president was elected to be the member of the executive board of the World Federation of Journalists. Jokingly, our Minister of Foreign Affairs said that the journalists have done much more in integrating Croatia into the international organization network than it was done by diplomacy itself.

QUESTION: If we can come back to the problem of Croatian Television, we believe, I think that all of us will agree that without solving that crucial problem of Croatian democracy, then you can't solve any other problem. You can't solve the problem of intolerance, ethnic, religious, and democratic tolerance. As you can see, while you have the election campaign in Bosnia, you can't even deal with problems of the Croats in Bosnia, if you don't have proper and professional TV stations. That's why we think it's the number one and top issue on the scale of democratic issues in Croatia. That's why we thank you for supporting that issue and for supporting us and our viewers and population in Croatia. It's not only that we want free media, especially free Croatian Television, it's our population that wants to have it free and impartial.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I can assure you that in my discussions with President Tudjman and with others, I had this right at the top, that is that HRT cannot operate this way. What we have done is lay out a roadmap for the government, so that it can become a part of the Euro-Atlantic institutional system and having an open and free media, especially a television that functions freely, is one of the benchmarks of what has to happen. Because we agree with you that there is no way to have an open and free system, if you don't have these things.

QUESTION: Because the problem is the third channel. The Croatian third channel is not a guarantee in itself. It's a good step ahead, but I think the most important thing is to reform the HRT, because this is something that we have and to launch a national channel is very costly and probably too much money for this market. But, we need a different approach. Therefore, the best and easiest way is to privatize the third channel and, on the other hand, we need a reform of the existing HRT, not only to remove director generals.

QUESTION: I think the key problem is in the need for mechanisms and system for decreasing influence of the leading party, because there is no guarantee that perhaps tomorrow, if a coalition government would come to power, that the situation would change, because we don't have a mechanism to help in the possibility to help independent journalists.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I just hope that when you get it that you don't put garbage in, and that you don't misuse the great ability to have a free press. It does happen in countries that have a free press, that they misuse their capabilities.

QUESTION: We have to be very careful with professional ownership in the media, because there are no clear cut lines between the private ownership and the state ownership and the collective-owned newspapers and the media. Of course, you have very different situations. You have some private newspapers which are very conservative and open to the influence of the state or the government and so on. You have some kind of social ownership, which is very liberal, open and critical. So, in Croatia, you don't have the publishers association, which should be instrumental in promoting professional criteria. We have an ethics committee, but there is no way to implement decisions without consent of the publishers.

QUESTION: On the other hand, privatization is not the goal for itself, because on the other side we now have the creation of a private monopoly, cross-ownership question hasn't been resolved. We have certain figures: there are owners of TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, magazines, and this is the creation of para-state monopoly. They will probably reform HRT, but on the other side they will create a huge fortress with radio and TV stations and everything.

QUESTION: Maybe it's good to add that the bidding for this new private TV channel hasn't been opened yet, and we suppose it hasn't been opened because it's waiting for someone appropriate, with the money. So what the government does is that they try to smuggle, they always make some cosmetic changes under the pressure of the international community, and they say, look, we do have a private TV channel. But the question is who the owner is, and if the owner is one of them, maybe not really one of them, but someone under the surface, a close friend, relative, son, I don't know who, you have the same thing. And with the large audience in the country watching TV and the only source of information, the most powerful source of information, it's very hard to say to those people, look, this is controlled again. People sometimes do not recognize.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: That's right. What is your law about foreign ownership of --

QUESTION: 25% in each media.

QUESTION: 29% in our proposal, because we think that only in partnership with foreign investors it is possible to launch a national channel, and this is also a guarantee against manipulations of the government. If you have the 49% ownership stake, it's hard to manipulate.

QUESTION: If we have another minute, we can discuss private media. It's always a problem, people who invest money want to have some sort of editorial policy control. But, HRT is a public institution. It is being paid every month by every household. That's why that company has to be professional and independent. We can discuss whether Kutle or someone else will have this politician or not, but this is something that should be changed. That's why only part of the truth is to have private media. But this is something that is very important and believe me, everybody is aware of it.

If you can't advertise any dailies or weeklies which are not good for the government, for instance Feral Tribune can't be advertised in our company, although they want to pay. But they have been forbidden because our government doesn't want to raise their circulation through advertising. You can see that it's not only political, it's commercial, HRT is in all senses the fortress of totalitarianism in Croatia. That's why this is so important.

QUESTION: Maybe it's good to say that if you own a TV set you have to pay the fee.

QUESTION: The tragedy is that people are paying and the government, or the President's office to be more specific, is using it for its immediate propaganda.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you. This has been very, very informative, and I just want to assure you as I have that this is number one talking point in terms of -- as we talk about the importance of democratization in Croatia, and that it is not real unless there is access and HRT is capable of being able to broadcast different opinions.

I hope very much that  the opposition coalition  takes this up as one of their major platform issues, because they can be the beneficiaries of it, but  I do think there has to be some way that they defend you and you defend them , because it is part of the same problem.

Thank you all very much, I enjoyed this very much. Thank you.
[End of Document]

After March 3, 2001 Croatian opposition coalition victory, so called "independent journalists" were highly awarded for their great job done during the election campaign:
Dražen Vukov Colić becomes Croatian Ambassador in Vienna, Austria,
Jagoda Vukušić becomes Croatian Ambassador in Oslo, Norway,
Aleksandar Milošević becomes Croatian Ambassador in Skopje, FYR Macedonia,

The other perspective
"The New Generation" feature article:
Quo Vadis Croatian Media - Redux

By Dr. Jerry Blaskovich, Los Angeles, August 2002
U.S. Ambassador Montgomery Supervises
American Agents in IRI and USAID,
Which Fund the "Opposition Six" !

by R.I., Vjesnik, Zagreb, Croatia, December 1 1999

Media Whores The Media Mafia Lying Media Bastards