The president of the Serb National Council (SNV), Milorad Pupovac, said on Thursday that statements made by journalist Marko Juric in the program "Markov trg" on the Zagreb-based Z1 television were examples of hate speech and incitement to violence and lynching, adding that the SNV would file a complaint with the Office of the Chief State Prosecutor (DORH) and the Electronic Media Agency (AEM).
"We regret that we have to remind DORH to do what it should do by virtue of office and that the AEM does not realise that it has the power not only to issue warnings but also to impose sanctions," Pupovac said at a news conference.
Juric, who hosts the "Markov trg" program on Z1, on January 12 ended the show by saying: "A message to all Zagreb residents, to all those who happen to take a walk in the Cvjetni Trg square - be careful because in the vicinity there is a church where - let me paraphrase a Serbian minister - Chetnik vicars work. Beware when you take a walk in the Cvjetni Trg square, especially mothers with children, there is a danger that a Chetnik vicar might run out of the church and commit a bloodbath the way they usually do it."
"Everything stated by the man who calls himself a journalist exemplifies hate, incitement to violence and to the lynching of members of a religious and ethnic minority and its representatives," said Pupovac.
Pupovac said that this was not the first time such statements were being made, but that the public had been deaf to numerous hate messages and that regulators and law enforcement agencies neither had the will nor the way to respond to it.
"What has been tolerated in society we see as the most direct attack on the initiative for launching historic dialogue between Croats and Serbs, Catholics and Orthodox Christians, under the auspices of Pope Francis," said Pupovac.
He noted that the latest case was not an isolated one but was rather part of a political agenda that had been given more and more room in the public in the last three years.
Pupovac's position was supported by the head of the Civic Committee for Human Rights, Zoran Pusic, who said that Juric's statement was a blatant example of hate speech and incitement to violence against members of the Serb minority and that the majority people should condemn it.
Meanwhile, Juric issued a statement, saying that he did not want to insult or discriminate against anyone but rather open a discussion on Chetnik ideology in the Serb Orthodox Church.
"Wishing to open a debate on the topic of Chetnik ideology in the Serb Orthodox Church, based on undeniable evidence showing the highest members of the clergy singing Chetnik songs on Youtube, as broadcast in the program 'Markov trg', I wanted to draw attention with my provocative closing statement to the problem about which I had warned several times in recent months, however, there was no appropriate public response," said Juric.
"I believe that this is a problem on which the Serb Orthodox Church should take a position because Chetnik ideology, by its criminal nature, cannot enjoy legitimacy in the Croatian state. It was not my intention to insult or discriminate against anyone in any way, and if that is what has happened, of course I regret it," Juric said in his statement.
Pupovac, however, dismissed Juric's interpretation of the incident.
"If Juric has evidence of someone singing songs that are contrary to laws and the Constitution, he could have said so. What he said is something different," Pupovac commented.
Responding to a reporter's remark that the SNV had not condemned the singing of Chetnik songs by several prominent members of the Serb Orthodox Church, Pupovac said: "You would still probably consider me a Chetnik even if I condemned such things."
"That should be condemned, even if it is done in private," said Pusic, adding that there was "a huge difference" if someone sang such songs in private or did it in public. If it is done in private, it should be condemned, but when done in public, it should be prosecuted, said Pusic.
Asked when he would distance himself from hate speech in the SNV newspaper "Novosti", more specifically the poem "Our beautiful howitzer", Pupovac said that had it been hate speech rather than parody, it could not have been published in that paper.
There are masters of parody in Novosti, Pupovac said, citing in that context a former journalist for the Feral Tribune satirical weekly, Viktor Ivancic.
The Serb official also said that the club of parliamentary deputies consisting of his Independent Democratic Serb Party (SDSS) and the Reformists would not vote confidence in the government led by Prime Minister-Designate Tihomir Oreskovic on Friday.
Members of Parliament from the SDSS and the Reformists see no preconditions based on which they could vote for the new government, said Pupovac.