Public Statement No. 1 – On the Hate Speech of Zoran Šprajc
The Croatian Helsinki Committee for Human Rights (CHC) closely monitors cases of hate speech, especially incidents displaying racism, fascism, and chauvinism at Croatian football stadiums.
In the same manner we also monitor hate speech in the media, especially on television. In this context, we must inform the public, but also the Electronic Media Council, of the inexcusable comments made by Zoran Šprajc, RTL’s news editor and anchor.
March 14, 2017, on RTL Direct, Mr. Šprajc commented on one of the numerous excavation sites in Zagreb in the area of Gračani where in 1945 the communist government carried out a mass execution of Zagreb’s citizens, German soldiers, Ustashas and children recruited in the Home Guard, students, the wounded, and civilians. Šprajc stated that “the Zagreb neighbourhood of Gračani began digging for alleged mass graves of Croatian and German soldiers from World War II, or in other words, the bodies of occupiers and national traitors.”
The previous government carried out a number of excavations at locations in Gračani. As a result of these excavations, a monument was erected on August 28, 2015 with the words “To the Victims of Communist Terror”. The monument was unveiled by the then SDP President of the Croatian Parliament, Josip Leko, and Ivan Zvonimir Čičak, President of the Croatian Helsinki Committee as a representative of the President of the Republic of Croatia, Kolinda Grabar Kitarović.
How then does journalist Zoran Šprajc already know beforehand that the excavated remains are the “bodies of occupiers and national traitors”? It has since been revealed that we are allegedly dealing with the bones of farm animals. Are farm animals then “national traitors”? Even if we were dealing with the bones of post-World War II victims, how does Mr. Šprajc know that they were “national traitors”? Perhaps for him, as well as for many other like-minded people in Croatia, all those killed after 1945 were “national traitors”.
The Executive Committee of the CHC (EC CHC) maintains that we are dealing with a case of tendentious hate speech, precisely at a time when Croatia is leading a dialogue in an attempt to confront a shared and painful past.
Ultimately, how would the Croatian public and Šprajc himself react if someone were to use such vulgar and hateful terms and comment on the excavation of Serbs killed during the Homeland War, be they soldiers or civilians?
We must also draw attention to the hate speech of Zoran Šprajc on TV’s RTL Direkt of March 8, 2017 in an interview with President Kolinda Grabar Kitarović.
We believe that the President made the mistake of coming to the show not assuming that anyone would “shoot her in the back”. Meanwhile, the backdrop in the RTL studio during the interview displayed photographs of swastikas, the words “Long Live Ante Pavelić”, as well as other symbols and insignia from the period of the fascist NDH – Independent State of Croatia. With such a visual collage, Šprajc and his editors directly implied that this was also the political orientation of the President herself.
Upon asking the President what her stance was regarding the position of women in the Catholic Church, Šprajc demonstrated his tendentiousness by stigmatising the entire Catholic Church as an institution that was behind the times in terms of women’s rights. He categorically claimed that the Church still treats women as “secondary and second-class”, hereby quoting a questionable statement made by the Dean of the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Đakovo, Ivica Raguž. It is obvious that one cannot view the whole Catholic Church through the statement of one priest, and therefore it is evident that once again we are dealing with hate speech aimed at stigmatising the Catholic Church as a whole.
The EC CHC claims that such hate speech must under no circumstances be found in any form of media, and definitely not in a television news program.
President of the CHC
Ivan Zvonimir Čičak