Regulator: Columnist’s article on Vukovar was ‘insulting’, but not hate speech

NEWS 11.11.2021 18:03
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Source: N1

The Electronic Media Council (VEM) on Thursday discussed complaints regarding journalist Boris Dezulovic article about Vukovar, published by N1 last week, concluding that the article did not constitute hate speech but was "objectively insulting to a large number of people."

VEM, which received six complaints to Dezulovic’s column, published on 2 November, said that “Article 14 (2) of the Electronic Media Act does not apply to the article in question. The column contains insulting language but no calls for violence and it does not constitute hate speech.”

VEM will act if it notices incitement or spreading of hate or discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, sex, language, religion, political or other affiliation, national or social background and to anti-semitism and xenophobia or to ideas of fascist and other totalitarian regimes. It will also act if a content is found to be potentially harmful for the physical, mental or moral development of minors and if it insults human dignity and it will act in other cases envisaged by the law, the Council said.

On the other hand, the news article in question is objectively insulting to a large number of Croatians, war and civil victims from Vukovar and their families, as well as all to other Croatians who feel solidarity with them, says VEM.

“The vulgar expression ‘F*ck Vukovar’ is to many of them a swear word and a gross insult to fundamental personal and human values – to their native town, a place of suffering of the Croatian people, where lives and physical integrity were lost to killing and abduction to Serb-run camps and the years spent in exile,” VEM says.

Freedom of expression one of basic values of modern society

However, freedom of expression is a fundamental value of modern society, so despite the coarse and abusive language of the article, in the editorial context it constitutes a different form of information, delivered through exaggeration, including swear words, VEM concludes.

In legal terms, the N1 broadcaster, which published Dezulovic’s column on its website, is not registered as a provider of an electronic publication in the national register of providers of media services, electronic publications and non-profit producers of audio-visual and radio programmes, VEM says.

The provider of the electronic publication is the Luxembourg-based Adria news S.a.r.l. hence conditions do not exist to request its registration with the Electronic Media Agency Register.

“However, when the provider of an electronic publication/audiovisual media services is not registered in Croatia, the Agency and VEM can request cooperation and action by the competent regulator in cases of violation of regulations of Article 14 (2) of the Electronic Media Act,” VEM says.

After publishing his article headlined “F*ck Vukovar” on the N1 broadcaster’s website on 2 November, which has been publicly condemned by veterans’ associations as well as the War Veterans’ Ministry, the columnist received numerous threats on social media.

The Croatian Writers’ Society and the Croatian Journalists’ Association backed Dezulovic, stressing that he is a victim of an institutionalised lynching campaign over an article in which he raised the issue of using victims of Vukovar for political purposes.

The Interior Ministry has confirmed police are investigating the threats.

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