DOSSIER PERATOVIĆ IV: That Tomislav Karamarko planned his big comeback into state service

After that grim Monday and conversation with the editor, everything changed for me, continued Peratović. That was the week that Marko Barišić, a ring-wing, conservative oriented journalist did an interview with Tomislav Karamarko, which received huge coverage in Vjesnik. It wasn’t so much an interview as it was praise of Tomislav Karamarko and his “achievements”. There wasn’t anything in the article about controversies or stains that were part of Tomislav Karamarko’s career up to that point.

And I was beginning to get jobs that would finish my career.”

with permissed fairpress.eu /May 16, 2015/ Authors: M. Podumljak and I. Horvatek. 

“Journalist Željko Peratović was harassed by his superiors in his workplace.” That is the summary of the verdict made by the judge of the Municipal Civil Court of Zagreb, Jelica Pandurić in the Željko Peratović vs Vjesnik litigation for mobbing. Seemingly, just another story in line. No different from thousand other human stories regarding the devastated journalist occupation, in a country where the free market can be described with “Stealers, keepers”, and capitalism is identified with feudalism. Journalist Željko Peratović was created by Vjesnik. Human being Željko Peratović was devastated by Vjesnik. Brought to his knees. Professionally, emotionally, physically. Left with indelible marks on his face and a shaken identity as a son, father, husband, neighbor, colleague.

Peratović Dešković Vjesnik
Željko Peratović in his workplace in Vjesnik / photo Marin Dešković

However, Vjesnik, although convicted in this procedure, is not a criminal. The true criminals were the faces behind the story, people working there. Both inside and those closely connected with Vjesnik. In the before mentioned verdict, the court non-bindingly asserted that the persons involved in a criminal act (which was enforced in the period between 2004 and 2005, and is still party ongoing) were Andrea Latinović, Vjesnik’s editor in chief, assistant and editor’s deputy at the time and Tomislav Karamarko, Director of Counterintelligence Agency (POA). Although nothing explicitly indicated towards him, the ghost of Josip Perković, former chief of various security services and presently a suspect in a proceeding in front of a court in München, was present throughout the verdict. Mostly concerning the killings that he, according to the indictment, ordered and organized on behalf of the former Yugoslav State Security Service, known by its colloquial and incorrect term UDBA.

Vjesnik had, besides daily reporting, the role of voicing politicians and tycoons behind it (from its very beginnings dating back to the middle of the 20th century). The newspaper had the state gazette “syndrome”. The intent and the message that the tycoon Croatia wanted to get across, in case of Peratović, was clear – not only will every disobedient action and individual journalist thought be nipped in the bud, but all those who dear oppose them, or even stir the waters a little and decide to go ahead with their work regardless of the prohibition – shall suffer. In every form and every field. That was the message that Željko Peratović was supposed to get in the past 10 years. Ever since, because of something that looked like a simple journalist assignment (composing profiles for potential candidates for the highest state functions) his agony has been enduring. That was the same year, 2004, that Tomislav Karamarko planned his big comeback into state service.

However, the position of the Director of POA was troublesome, burdened by affairs of the former director Franjo Turek. He labelled journalists and policemen as being the key enemies of the state when they were only doing their jobs – digging and researching key political issues. After Turek, the hot chair was occupied by Joško Podbevšek. The position brought along habits. Already in August in 2004, only a few months after Podbevšek took over as Director of POA, the media reported that his brother, Petar Podbevšek beat up a young man in Korčula. Besides that information, there were indications that there had been more similar incidents that involved Petar Podbevšek, but were covered up by the police and other services. There were signals that the cover ups were connected with his brother Joško. The result was immediately speculations about Podbevšek’s potential successors. Among others, Tomislav Karamarko’s name popped up.

Željko Peratović reminisced about those times and events for Fairpress:
“It was summer, August of 2004. The newsroom was half empty. Editor in chief was away. She was away a lot for business meetings and official trips, and at the time, as I recall, she was on a vacation. I think that was the time I read, in Jutarnji’s Sunday edition, an interview with , where he said that Karamarko was a potentially good candidate for the director of POA. Then it became clear to me that everything was coming to its place and that the interview with Luka Bebić was, among other things, preparation for Karamarko’s appointment.

 

Perković Karamarko Bebić
Son of Josip Perković, Saša, Tomislav Karamarko and Luka Bebić

Next day in office I suggested to do a profile on Tomislav Karamarko, considering that his appointment as the director of POA was already the subject of public speculation. My suggestion was accepted. Looking back, I think that my idea, and me as author, got the green light because the editor in chief wasn’t in the office at the time. Summer is the silly season period anyway, and the amount of media control is not that high. Seeing how I had my sources in the “service”, as well as around Karamarko, and the data from his biography, the article was finished by Wednesday. I turned it in on Thursday, and it was published on Saturday, August 28, 2004. Ever since Tuesday that week I had been trying to get hold of Karamarko for comment regarding some of the information, but he wasn’t picking up the phone. A source told me that Karamarko was in a vacation home in Mljet with a friend and colleague Vladimir Faber and the owner of Profil (biggest Croatian multimedia bookstore). That is why I wrote in the article that Karamarko owns a holiday home in Mljet. On Saturday, while reading the article, I noticed that some of the things were missing. I called the editor for an explanation, and was told that the article was cut in length because of space. I accepted that explanation, but found it strange that the text was missing information regarding Karamarko’s companies and relationships with certain individuals. However, up until Monday everything seemed ordinary and the weekend went by normally.

Andrea Latinović came up to me in office on Monday morning. She leaned over to my part of the cubicle and said that she was receiving complaints regarding my work. How “other journalist colleagues from other newsrooms and readers” were complaining about me and that lately I was conducting “serious professional errors”. During her talk she was loud enough so that everyone in the newsroom were able to hear her. They were all looking down. She went on to say that she received a phone call from Karamarko and that he said that the article was a disaster and that he did not own a vacation home in Mljet and I should apologize to him in my next article. I was dumbfounded. It would be a benchmark of a sort for a journalist to apologize in an article to somebody who is shooting for a director’s position because of one single detail, i.e., because of an information that he owns a vacation home in Mljet. I told her so. I also told her that, in those types of situations, there are instruments of rebuttal or right of reply. I also offered to remove the mistake by writing another article; also to include Tomislav Karamarko’s comment about other allegations from the article, especially the fact that he had been connected with criminal circles on numerous occasions and concerning legal affairs. Latinović then said: “How would you like it if I wrote you had killed a man?”, and that a new article was out of the question. It ended there.

After that grim Monday and conversation with the editor, everything changed for me, continued Peratović. That was the week that Marko Barišić, a ring-wing, conservative oriented journalist did an interview with Tomislav Karamarko, which received huge coverage in Vjesnik. It wasn’t so much an interview as it was praise of Tomislav Karamarko and his “achievements”. There wasn’t anything in the article about controversies or stains that were part of Tomislav Karamarko’s career up to that point.

And I was beginning to get jobs that would finish my career.”

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