Media Attack by Ivkošić against Croatian Feminists


This text is a chronological analysis of the media attack by Večernji list columnist Milan Ivkošić against Croatian feminists and their activities and subsequent national and international reactions to this case. 

The review is substantiated by newspaper articles which dealt with the mentioned case and it all started with the TV show “Press klub” broadcast on Croatian National Television (HRT). Ivkošić and prominent feminists Rada Borić and Vesna Kesić were participants of the show. After the show, Ivkošić published his reaction to their appearance in his column in Večernji list and a public debate in various newspapers and magazines ensued. We have also outlined events that occurred as responses to media attacks by Milan Ivkošić and which were realized in a lawsuit brought against him by 14 Croatian feminists before the Municipal Court in Zagreb.

In the summer of 1998 after having participated in a debate about the status of women in Croatia on the TV talk show “Press-klub” which was broadcast on June 9th, two feminists and members of women’s groups found themselves under media attack. Rada Borić, the then program coordinator of the Centre for Women War Victims and lecturer at the Centre for Women’s Studies in Zagreb, and Vesna Kesić, one of the founders of the Centre for Women War Victims and the group for women’s human rights B.a.B.e. (Be active Be emancipated), along with all the activists from Croatian women’s organizations – found themselves the subjects of insulting remarks in a column by journalist and talk-show panellist, Milan Ivkošić. In his column under the headline “Them” published in Večernji list, a daily newspaper which was, at that period, owned by the state, Ivkošić accused Rada Borić and other women activists of being traitors who collaborated with the “Serbian fascist aggressor”. He also stated that feminist activists were “anti-women” because they were not married, because they were lesbians and because they worked with non-Croatians. Ivkošić also said similar racist and sexist remarks against women’s organizations in general during the TV panel discussion. Public reactions to the TV show varied. Feral Tribune published an article under the heading “Swollen patriot” by Vladimir Primorac. Vjesnik published an article under the heading “Grotesque standpoints of Croatian feminists Vesna Kesić and Rada Borić” by Josip Ivić in its “Reactions” section.

These attacks, and the sexist and racist statements presented by Ivkošić in the talk-show, encouraged women who represent various women’s groups in Croatia to act together. They concluded that all the claims stated by Ivkošić against Rada Borić in his column were insulting and untrue and, as such, constituted grounds for criminal proceedings. In order to prevent further discrimination of feminist activists, Rada Borić, together with 14 other members of women’s organizations, decided to bring charges against Milan Ivkošić for slander and libel. Rada Borić filed a private lawsuit for libel and the other 14 activists for slander against Milan Ivkošić before the Municipal Court in Zagreb in June and July of 1998. Various media wrote about the held hearings (Novi list, Večernji list ...).

The Croatian Journalists’ Association reacted to the article and sent an excerpt of the board minutes of the 14th session of the Croatian Journalists’ Association Council of Honour and their decision was published in Večernji list on July 15, 1998. Activists contacted the Croatian Journalists’ Association again on February 10 as Ivkošić had not been sanctioned at all by the Council of Honour even though it had concluded that he had advocated “hate speech, demonstration and support of intolerance in Croatian society” in his article. They explicitly requested that the Council of Honour use its mechanisms of sanctioning and publicly declare its standpoint.

Many individuals and organizations supported the feminists in this process. The attacked activists from the women’s organizations contacted the president of the Commission of the Republic of Croatia for Gender Equality at that time, Ljerka Mintas Hodak, but their letter was returned as being misaddressed. Mrs. Mintas Hodak sent her response subsequently. Her letter only showed the (non)reaction by government institutions to this incident. However, the Commission reacted after further pressures by Croatian and international nongovernmental organizations but not in the manner as expected by the attacked activists. The response to the mentioned Commission gives evidence of that.
A letter was also sent to Večernji list’s editor-in-chief as a reaction to Milan Ivkošić’s column as well as his entire media appearance.

Other organizations supported us morally and condemned the attacks and they also, as a show of financial support, paid our court costs. The following organizations supported the attacked activists morally and financially: European Women’s Foundation from Luxembourg, Advocates for Human Rights from the USA, Urgent Action Fund for Women, EYFA (European Youth For(est) Action), CFFC (Catholics for a Free Choice), Committee on Human Rights and Anna M. Grunfelder. Various organizations, such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Women’s Studies Centre from Glasgow, the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership from the USA, Leeds Metropolitan University and the University of Glasgow sent appeals to the Commission of the Republic of Croatia for Gender Equality, the Croatian Journalists’ Association – Council of Honour, and the editors of Vjesnik and Večernji list. They requested that the competent authorities condemn Ivkošić’s participation in the TV show and his attitudes stated in his column.

Some women dropped the charges due to financial reasons in spite of aid and the ardent support of male and female individuals and organizations from and outside the country.

The statute of limitations on the case expired on June 14, 2002. Private charges against Ivkošić were rejected and criminal proceedings dismissed