Backlash against Freedom of Speech: Attack on Zagreb Pride

Zagreb Pride would like to inform you about the development of a judicial practice imposing serious restrictions on the freedoms of LGBTIQ citizens in Croatia. The latest court decision against Zagreb Pride is the outcome of an organized campaign from clerical-right groups that led to the 2013 Constitutional Referendum banning same-sex marriage. Their wider conservative campaign aims to limit human rights of LGBTIQ persons and restrict sexual and reproductive rights in Croatia by targeting our partners from the 2013 Vote no Campaign: CroL – Croatian LGBT News Portal, Center for Peace Studies, Center for Education, Information, and Counseling (CESI) and GONG. As our case demonstrates, they de facto succeeded in circumscribing the right of Zagreb Pride and other LGBTIQ organizations, LGBTIQ citizens, and citizens supporting LGBTIQ equality to publicly express their value-based judgment regarding the homophobic character of someone’s actions.

In a recent decision, the Osijek County Court confirmed the decision of the Zagreb Municipal Court, which found that Zagreb Pride violated personal honor and dignity of Karolina Vidović Krišto, now a former employee of Croatian Radio Television (HRT), by placing her on the annual list of candidates for the most homophobic person of the year in 2013[1]. According to the verdict, we are obliged to pay 41.018,91 HRK (approximately 5414 EUR or 6028 USD) and publish the verdict on our website (www.zagreb-pride.net).

INDIEGOGO: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/lgbt-pride-under-attack-for-addressing-homophobia#/story

Karolina Vidović Krišto is a journalist. At the time of publishing of Zagreb Pride’s 2013 most homophobic person of the year list of candidates, she was employed at HRT. Regardless of the fact that she was an employee of a public institution that has a Constitutional obligation to show equal treatment and due respect to all citizens, regardless of their personal differences, Karolina Vidović Krišto in her TV Show Slika Hrvatske broadcasted Christian J. Pinto’s short documentary The Kinsey Syndrome that deals with the topic of the so-called “Kinsey research”. This documentary suggests that there is a correlation between homosexuality and pedophilia[2]. Karolina Vidović Krišto insisted that the abovementioned broadcast was an example of informative investigative journalism. Yet, not only did she fail to provide an opportunity for someone from the LGBTIQ community to address such claims, she also used the documentary without obtaining copyrights prior to the production of the broadcast, due to which she was suspended by HRT for the violation of ethical conduct and authorship rights. Moreover, Karolina Vidović Krišto was personally involved in organizing the visit of Judith Reisman to Croatia[3]. Judith Reisman openly claims that she “scientifically” proved that homosexuality encourages pedophilia and that LGBTIQ parenthood is inherently wrong. Karolina Vidović Krišto supports such claims, which was obvious from the portrayal of the content on her TV show, as well as her public statements that homosexuality is a “sin” and that she as a Christian cannot support it. She also claimed that 85% of pedophiles are homosexuals.

Due to the described context, particularly the fact that Karolina Vidović Krišto is a journalist bound by high ethical standards of her profession and being a public figure, Zagreb Pride nominated her for the homophobe of the year in 2013.

In the Krišto v. Zagreb Pride case, both the Zagreb Municipal Court and the Osijek County Court argued that Krišto was merely expressing her views that homosexuality is “a personal choice” and on “gender ideology” based on such choice. According to both courts, since homosexuality is a choice and an ideology, it is therefore subject to legitimate critical evaluation. Following this view, the courts argued that labeling her actions as homophobic was unfair and violated the personal honor and reputation of Karolina Vidović Krišto.

At the same time, the Croatian courts fail to offer the same level of protection of “honor and reputation” for all their citizens, such as in cases challenging public claims that homosexuality is a “medical condition”, more precisely an illness. In Poljaković Case, Zagreb County Court found that Prof. Ivan Poljaković of Zadar University enjoyed the protection of freedom of expression when he publicly claimed that it was scientifically proven that homosexuality is an illness and should be treated as such by society. In the Court’s view such statements were not a violation of the dignity of LGBTIQ citizens.

Furthermore, in one of the decisions of the well-known Krešić v. Zagreb University’s Faculty of Organization and Information from 2012, the Varaždin Municipal Court found that Mr. Krešić violated the honor and reputation of his colleagues employed at the Faculty because he publicly, through various media, talked about the harassment that he suffered from his colleagues because of his sexual orientation. What is fascinating about this decision is the fact that in parallel proceedings, both the Varaždin Municipal Court and the Varaždin County Court found that Krešić was indeed a victim of harassment of his colleagues based on his sexual orientation.  In other words, Krešić was ironically punished for using his freedom of expression to publicly tell the truth.

In light of such judicial practice in Croatia, Zagreb Pride took a firm stance not to accept de facto censorship imposed by the Croatian courts; to uncompromisingly defend the fundamental right to freedom of expression of all citizens, including LGBTIQ, and to take strong and determined action to defend and secure that freedom regardless of the price of judicial sanctions and the steep costs of litigation.

Consequently, Zagreb Pride will file a Constitutional complaint against the decision of the Osijek County Court and request the Constitutional Court to reaffirm its right to freedom of expression. Immediately, Zagreb Pride will start developing a litigation strategy for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, should domestic proceedings prove to be futile. Finally, Zagreb Pride will file a number of new cases as part of strategic litigation to change the described judicial doctrine of Croatian courts that substantially limits the scope of freedom of expression in Croatia.

For abovementioned reasons, Zagreb Pride faces unprecedented financial difficulties that are endangering our activities and efforts in the struggle for equality and respect for human rights of LGBTIQ persons in Croatia. If you believe in freedom of speech, as Zagreb Pride does, we kindly ask you in solidarity to support our struggle with a financial contribution if you consider that appropriate. We will never be silenced for calling out homophobia, biphobia and transphobia.

The struggle continues!

[1] Since 2011, Zagreb Pride has been organizing Homofriend/Homophobe Elections as part of the annual Pride event organized in Zagreb.
[2] HRT Slika Hrvatske – Pedofilija kao temelj spolnog odgoja? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TlaCwh2Xtc0
[3] Judith Reisman u Splitu: Rana seksualnost vodi k homoseksualizmu; Karolina Vidović-Krišto: Dobila sam uznemirujuća pisma http://www.slobodnadalmacija.hr/Split/tabid/72/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/201437/Default.aspx