How Croatian Journalists’ Association betrayed journalism and became religious police

In its statement in which Croatian Journalists’ Association accuses Index and Marjanović of hate speech, which is a criminal act punishable by the court and not by Croatian Journalists’ Association, association refers to its own document entitled “Code of honor of Croatian journalists”. This same Code of honor stipulates its own principles as “right to freedom of thought and expression”, “pluralism of ideas and opinions” and “resisting to all forms of censorship”.

By: Editorial

Wednesday, 04/20/2016.

The article was taken with the permission of the editorial board of the portal


HRVOJE MARJANOVIĆ made a grave mistake, the worst mistake a man can make these days. He wrote exactly what he thinks without self-censorship that is omnipresent in the Croatian media.

What can one think when desk receives electronic mail with media statement entitled “We condemn insulting of religious feelings of believers and we ask journalists to abide with ethical principles? ” There are several possible answers to this question.

Did Ladislav Ilčić find a new banshee to scare the public with imagined persecution of Catholics in the country in which Catholics are a vast majority that, by definition, may not be jeopardized by the non-believing minority? Did a media publish a cartoon that, just like in Charlie Hebdo case, some fanatical believers failed to understand and their religious leader convinced them it is gravely offensive?

Croatian Journalists’ Association on a completely wrong side

No. None of the above. We are talking about statement of Croatian Journalists’ Association in respect to critical commentary of Index journalist Hrvoje Marjanović regarding Croatian TV live coverage of honoring of remnants of late Leopold Mandić who was canonized by the Catholic Church. When one reads the entire statement regarding the Marjanović’s commentary, one thing becomes crystal clear. By issuing this statement Croatian Journalists’ Association does not side with freedom of media and freedom of expression but instead sides with those who think that believers should be especially protected from texts that might upset them. This is beyond doubt. Regardless of what was written in the statement of Croatian Journalists’ Association, it does not contain the famous “but” that often mitigates or relativizes condemnation of someone or something. Statement signed by head of Croatian Journalists’ Association unambiguously, without any reservations and quite openly takes side in the eternal struggle between freedom of expression and “hurt religious feelings”. Unfortunately, it takes the completely wrong side.

In its statement in which Croatian Journalists’ Association accuses Index and Marjanović of hate speech, which is a criminal act punishable by the court and not by Croatian Journalists’ Association, association refers to its own document entitled “Code of honor of Croatian journalists”. This same Code of honor stipulates its own principles as “right to freedom of thought and expression”, “pluralism of ideas and opinions” and “resisting to all forms of censorship”.

Who abides more to this Code in this particular case? Is it Croatian Journalists’ Association who wrote it or Marjanović who is not even a member of the Association? It is really not difficult to judge.

Croatian Journalists’ Association as religious police

However, the main “argument” of this statement relates to “insulting of religious feelings of believers”. How do people in Croatian Journalists’ Association exactly know what “gravest insulting of religious feelings of believers” is? It is not a rhetorical question. Who appointed Saša Leković and members of Executive Committee of Croatian Journalists’ Association as interpreters of insult of religious feelings of more than 3.5 million Catholics, the number determined during the last census in the Republic of Croatia? The only person in the world with the mandate to speak on behalf of all Catholics is the Bishop of Rome, more commonly known as the Pope. What is the logic behind association’s imposing as arbitrator of what is insulting to several million believers?

Are the Catholic in Croatia some jeopardized minority which is frequently being targeted because of their religious affiliation? Are the people in Croatian Journalists’ Association aware of the fact that there are Catholics who do not experience religious ecstasy when they see a polyurethane mask, as well as those who consider kneeling in front of a corpse to be an idolatrous blasphemy? Why the Association assumes that all Catholics in Croatia are fanatics with propensity to inquisition, who do not know how to respond to criticism in any way other than to call for persecution of author of text they didn’t like? Why, in the name of god, Croatian Journalists’ Association acts as religious police instead of association whose primary role should be protection of freedom of media, expression and thought?

Death threats to journalists Index after the text of Hrvoje Marjanović and reaction of Saša Leković.

Does the Association consider sharp criticism of religion and religious practices to be “hate speech” by definition and “intolerance against believers”? Does it mean that such journalists’ association would convict the Washington Post for “hate speech” and “intolerance against believers” because of publication of Richard Dawkins’ text in which the Catholic Church is described as a “disgusting institution” and Church’s invitation to Anglican priests to transfer to Catholic ranks is compared with “actions of a common pimp”? Unfortunately, it appears that the answer to these two questions is a positive one.

Do unbelievers have feelings at all?

Finally, what are these “religious feelings” about which everyone talks? Did you ever hear of anyone hurting feelings of unbelievers? Do unbelievers have feelings that may be hurt up to the point in which Croatian Journalists’ Association has to rise up to their protection? Haven’t there been too many opportunities for such reactions in Croatia until now?
The most important question is: Does Croatian Journalists’ Association think that authors have the right to write and media to publish exactly what they think regarding certain religious practices? If they do not have that right, Croatian Journalists’ Association should stop pretending that it protects freedom of media. If they do have that right, Croatian Journalists’ Association should apologize for shameful accusations against Index and Hrvoje Marjanović.

People have rights, ideas don’t

You may think what you like about Marjanović’s commentary – you may consider it entertaining and funny, boring and stupid, shallow or subtle – it is completely irrelevant. Of course, you may yourself write about it whatever you want. Judging by the latest developments you may, without fear of punishment, call for violence against author of this text and members of his family. However, if you read his commentary in full, you would have noticed that the author does not call for violence against the Catholics, does not hate for hatred against the Catholics and does not call for discrimination against the Catholics. Critique of ideas and organizations is not hate speech and spreading of intolerance, regardless of how much these organizations have been working on full identification of their members with such organizations. People have rights, ideas don’t’.

Marjanović expresses his critical opinion regarding an event, organization behind the event and the management of the Croatian TV that decided to broadcast such event live on a public TV. Those who read Marjanović’s text more than just the title would have noticed that the author criticizes not only Croatian TV and the Catholic Church but also the British who are obsessed with royal weddings, as well as Americans who believe that wrestles are real athletes.

Besides, Marjanović strung atheists as well, calling them “Satan worshippers”, which may be considered offensive by some sensitive atheists due to a simple reason – unlike the Christians, atheists do not believe in existence of Satan.
What did they come up with in the Croatian Journalists’ Association when they so easily denounced Index and Marjanović in their public statement, accusing them of criminal act of spreading of intolerance and hate speech? The issue is actually quite a simple one – in this case the Croatian Journalists’ Association reached for the usual tool of salon moral judges; if you condemn religious fanaticism and clericalism you must also condemn harsh secular critique of religious practices. Thus, in the eyes of the public, you appear, in accordance with our lovely proverb, “both innocent and fucked”. After that, no complaints are possible from wither side. The fact that you cowardly and along the way betrayed the main purpose of organization that should protect freedom of speech and expression is irrelevant – it is only important that nobody may complain that you are condemning only “their people”.

If anyone, it is the Croatian Journalists’ Association who offended believers

This equidistance between actual extremists and their most vociferous critics is obviously worth a lot to Croatian Journalists’ Association and even though they themselves may be aware that it is, to the very least, a sign of lack of taste to compare actual religious extremism and imaginary irreligious extremism in a country that handed its sovereignty to the Holy See by signing the so-called Vatican Accords during the nineties.
People in Croatian Journalists’ Association forget or pretend that they do not know that all ideas are subject to criticism in a democratic society with free media, including very harsh criticism. If anyone truly offended all Catholics in Croatia or at least majority of believers who did not bow to remnants of late Leopold Mandić, it is Croatian Journalists’ Association that claimed the right to interpret opinions of several million believers, more so in the manner that assumes that all these people think identically – as spoilt brats who may not respond to criticism in any other way than by hysterical calls for (self)censorship of critics.

Catholic churchcensorshipCharlie HebdoCode of honor of Croatian journalistsCroatian Journalists' AssociationCroatian Radio TelevisionHoly SeeHrvoje MarjanovićLadislav IlčićPopeSaša LekovićSt. Leopold Bogdan Mandić
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