Professor Wolfgang Benedek of the Institute for International Law and Cooperation of Graz University said at a round table in Zagreb on Friday that Croatia had good legislative solutions regulating responsibility for hate speech in the media, but that those solutions should be enforced, which he noted was difficult because of the fact that recognising hate speech was sometimes not easy.
One should address the matter cautiously and it is better to think about freedom of expression rather than about penalties for hate speech, Benedek said at the event, organised by the Electronic Media Council and held in the Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) offices.
Participants in the round table presented in their comments entirely opposed views - while the secretary-general of the central cultural association Matica Hrvatska, Zorislav Lukic, said that "there is no hate speech in modern Croatia", attorney Vesna Alaburic cited several cases of hate speech, singling out the ending announcement by Marko Juric, editor of a programme on the Zagreb-based Z1 TV, which prompted the Electronic Media Council to ban it for three days.
Lukic said that Juric's announcement was an "act of provocation that revealed the truth" about Serb Orthodox Metropolitan Porfirije Peric's behaviour at a gathering in Chicago where Chetnik songs were sung, after which the Serb dignitary expressed regret.
Lukic said that there were double standards, that only the HND Ethics Board had launched proceedings over the ridiculing of the Croatian national anthem in the Novosti weekly, published by the Serb National Council (SNV), and that penalties in that and the case of reporter Juric were not the same even though they were both publicly condemned.
In a statement for Hina, he additionally explained why he thought that there was no hate speech in Croatia.
"Hate and hate speech are attributable to totalitarian systems such as Hitler's, Stalin's and Mussolini's. Hate, planned and organised with the aim of knowingly destroying an individual or a group, does not exist in Croatia... There are strong-worded statements, sometimes dramatically strong-worded ones. There are also statements that are inappropriate, but I have not yet witnessed hate speech in Croatian society," said Lukic.
On the other hand, attorney Alaburic said that there were cases of hate speech, singling out the controversial closing announcement by Z1 editor Juric.
"Of course there are cases of hate speech in Croatia. I would not say that it is an extremely huge problem, especially not one that cannot be dealt with. As for the closing announcement in the disputable show by Marko Juric, in which he warned women with small children walking in Zagreb's Cvjetni Trg square 'to be careful as there is a Serb Orthodox church nearby from which someone could dart out and attack them, the way Chetniks do' - that was hate speech because the statement referred to all Serb Orthodox priests and believers," Alaburic concluded.