About 5,000 people rallied outside the offices of the Electronic Media Council in Zagreb on Tuesday to protest against the Council's decision to revoke the broadcasting licence from the local Z1 television station for three days for violating the Electronic Media Act after a programme host used hate speech in his talk show.

The protest was organised by the Zagreb branch of the Homeland War Disabled Veterans' Association. The protesters demanded that Electronic Media Council chair Mirjana Rakic and Council members resign.

The Council unanimously decided on Friday to revoke the broadcasting licence from Z1 for three days after programme host Marko Juric signed off his show by saying that all people walking through Cvjetni Trg square in Zagreb should be wary of the nearby Serb Orthodox church where "Chetnik (Serbian fascist) vicars rule".

The decision on the temporary revocation took effect at midnight between Monday and Tuesday.

A delegation of protesters met with Electronic Media Council chair Mirjana Rakic, who told them that the decision was based on the law and that the case has been referred to the State Prosecutor's Office.

Commenting on the protest, Rakic said that in a democratic society people have the right to express their disagreement with certain decisions through peaceful protests, but added that such protests should not be reduced to discrediting the people who made such decisions.

The delegation included another Z1 programme host, Velimir Bujanec, who brought Rakic a Chetnik fur hat and several caps in the style of those worn by Tito's Partisans during the Second World War. Bujanec said he had received the Chetnik hat from a woman who had been raped by Serb paramilitaries during the 1991-1995 war in Vukovar.

Programme host Marko Juric said that he did not mean to promote hatred and violence but to warn citizens of a potential security risk. He said that the purpose of his satirical comment was to draw public attention that the Serb Orthodox Church in Croatia was glorifying the Chetnik ideology. "The head of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Croatia sings Chetnik songs with impunity and the Croatian state finances that," Juric said.

Juric said he supported the idea of publishing "a register of national traitors", adding that the first name on that list should be that of former President Stjepan Mesic.

The protesters sang Croatian patriotic songs and carried Croatian flags and signs saying "Stop the Chetniks in Croatia". They also carried a cardboard effigy of Mirjana Rakic dressed in Partisan uniform and holding a machine-gun. Some of them occasionally shouted "For the Homeland Ready!", a salute used by the Nazi-style Ustasha regime that ruled Croatia during World War II. Bujanec warned them not to do that because in that way they were harming their cause.

Among the protesters were Djuro Glogoski, one of the leaders of war veterans who had been protesting outside the Veterans' Affairs Ministry in Zagreb for more than a year, and the newly-appointed Speaker of the Croatian Parliament, Ivan Tepes of the right-wing Croatian Party of Rights - Ante Starcevic (HSP AS).

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