A group of historians on Wednesday responded to what they described as an unprecedented public campaign against a government minister in Croatia, expressing concern about "distorted reports and uninformed interpretations" of some statements by the new Culture Minister Zlatko Hasanbegovic.
"As historians we express deep concern about the way some statements made by Dr Zlatko Hasanbegovic, the Culture Minister, have been used for his political, professional and moral discrediting," reads a statement signed by 77 historians including Mato Artukovic, Nikica Baric, Ivo Banac, Zlatko Begonja, Alexander Buczynski, Stjepan Cosic, Zdravko Dizdar, Filip Hamersak, Zeljko Holjevac, Mario Jareb, Juraj Kolaric, Jure Kristo, Milan Kruhek, Zlatko Matijevic, Stjepan Matkovic, Andjelko Mijatovic, Ivo Rendic Miocevic, Franjo Sanjek, Mirko Valentic and Josip Vrandecic.
Such distorted reporting and uninformed interpreting, primarily of Hasanbegovic's statements in the political talk show Otvoreno in May 2015, has taken the place of well-argumented discussions, which are crucial not only for historiography but for every public policy and has narrowed the arena for public debates in a rarely seen way, the historians said.
"If society wants to come closer to resolving the main disputes of Croatia's history in the past century, and consequently to a happier development in this century, it is necessary to develop a culture of dialogue and mutual respect, which renders strong protest activities as the least appropriate," they say.
As for criticisms that the minister, being a historian, is not qualified to run the culture ministry, the historians recall that heritage institutions (archives, libraries and museums), which fall within the field of work of historians, are also within the minister's jurisdiction.
They therefore see Hasanbegovic's appointment as an opportunity for improving the situation in that sector and call on those who are dissatisfied with his appointment to judge the minister by his deeds.
The statement was signed also by 68 other members of the academic community, professors, researchers and others, including Zarko Domljan, Dubravko Jelcic, Stipe Kutlesa, Zorislav Lukic, Tihomil Mastrovic, Miroslav Medjimorec, Nino Raspudic, Branko Salaj and Karolina Vidovic Kristo.