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Croatia Clamps Down On Press

By Alessandro Marzo Magno, Don Hill

Zagreb, May 10 (RFE/RL) - A Zagreb court has ordered the editor of the Croatian satiric weekly newspaper Feral Tribune to stand trial for ridiculing a pet project of Croation President Franjo Tudjaman.

If the trial comes off, it will be the first of journalist for violating a press libel act adopted by the Croatian parliament, the Sabor, March 15. The act provides for jail terms up to three years for individuals or organizations that publish criticism of the President. The act terms such offenses "libel," a term usually used in the West to means publication of damaging falsehood.

Tudjman had proposed creating at the Croatian town of Jasenovac a monument to Croatian victims of World War Two, and of communism. During the world war, Jasenovac was the site of a death camp operated by the Croatian pro-Nazi party "Ustasha." Feral Tribune Editor-in-Chief Viktor Ivancic published in the newspaper an article hailing Jasenovac as, in his words, the "biggest Croatian underground town," a reference to the more than 100,000 Jews, Serbs and other victims thought to be buried there.

The Feral recently has run afoul of the law in other ways. Croatian police raided the editorial offices and conducted a search. Tudjman's daughter Nevenka has sued the publication in Split, charging libel. Her lawyer announced in a press conference that she was bringing the action against what he termed the "pro-Yugoslavian" newspaper. He said that anyone "who untruthfully attacks President Tudjman's family does not fight for freedom of the press, but fights against the freedom of the croatian people."

Our correspondent in the region reports the Tudjman administration in recent weeks has acted against the press in other ways. It shut down the weekly Panorama for what officials said were "ecological reasons." Panorama's editor says the publication had published reports on Tudjman indiscretions, and was planning further revelations. Tudjman's administration also levied a special tax on "pornography" against the Feral.

Zagreb declared a fine equivalent to 3.7-million dollars against the Unione Italiana, the organization of the Italian minority, publisher of the daily La Voce del Popola. The union had been granted a special waiver to import a rotary press to print the newspaper. The Tudjman administratioin charges that the union allowed the press to be used unlawfully also to print the Rijeka newspaper Novi List. A 1.2-million-dollar fine was levied against the Novi List. Since then, Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister Hidajet Viscevic has said the fine against the Unione Italiana may not be enforced.

The president of the Croatian Journalistic Associatioon, Jagoda Vokusic, circulated a statement inside and outside the country protesting actions involving Croatian news publications.