“We don’t write a lot about Macedonia, but when we do, the articles become quite popular. It seems like your situation is not much tolerant, the freedom of media is quite limited and every time we write about your government, we receive fierce comments that defend it”
Author: Vladimir Petreski
Vlado Lucić is the CEO of News Bar, a Croatian satire website. This website is known for publishing para-news (or “onion” news), i.e. articles that sound completely true, but they have nothing to do with truth. In Macedonia, the article which asserts that the Departments of Old Slavonic Languages will be renamed to Departments of Old Macedonian Languages, drew a huge amount of attention (published on October 12). This fake article drew so much attention that it had 80.000-90.000 hits. Besides, it was published twice, and achieved the goal twice – once in 2012 and again in 2016. News Bar continiously grows into larger operation, and for some time it had its own TV show on the Croatian Television, which was annulled without much fuss.
The article you published, which says that the Departments of Old Slavonic Languages in Croatia are being renamed to Departments of Old Macedonian Languages, how was it created four years ago and what made you to republish it now?
Lucić: The article was written by our colleague Marko Dejanović, who is familiar with Macedonia, he has plenty of colleagues and oftentimes visits your country, thus he knows the situation. The story began when we discovered that every nation has something that is proud of, something that it wants to show, albeit it is a matter of untruth. For instance, the Serbs are trying to prove that the Croats are Serbian descendants, so we made an article that thrilled the Serbian readers. Then, we decided to write such article about the Macedonians and we figured out that it can be about the pride of the language, so we made a story that all peoples on the Balkans do not speak neither Croatian, nor Serbian, yet Macedonian language. It was published four years ago and it became a hit immediately. A plethora of people from Macedonia read it, shared it and a great deal of websites republished it. Some of them realized that it is fake, but we heard that it was covered by TV shows as well. I remember that there was some topical news on Macedonian and Croatia, so we decided that it’s time to refresh and republish the article.
Were there many reactions this time?
Lucić: Yes. Not much in Croatia, but there were a lot of people from Macedonia who shared it, because it is a matter of some kind of interesting pride. The things in that article are simply written and it’s easy to grasp that everything is fake. But, when people want to believe that something is true, they can easily close their eyes, keep silent about things that seem illogical to them, which allow us to republish all of that.
We signed Sandra Ham, a professor of Croatian studies at the faculty in Osijek, as a source because she is often on TV, speaks about history of languages and she made the article look authentic. She didn’t know anything about this, but when the article showed up, she called us and told us that students were stopping her and were asking “What’s this all about, you teach us something completely different!” When they showed her the article, she just laughed and realized that it’s actually satire.
We don’t write a lot about Macedonia, but when we do, the articles become quite popular. It seems like your situation is not much tolerant, the freedom of media is quite limited and every time we write about your government, we receive fierce comments that defend it. By the way, the article about the Old Macedonian language had 80.000-90.000 hits.
Were there any reactions in Croatia regarding the visit of your President, Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, and the Slovene President, Borut Pahor, which was used by our President, Gjorge Ivanov, as an excuse not to explain why he pardoned 56 politicians? Were there any reactions in Croatia?
Lucić: Yes, the Macedonians organized a small protest and we were invited as ambassadors of satire, but unfortunately, we weren’t able to take part because of the obligations we had. When it comes to the abolition, it went off rather loudly here as well. We can’t imagine something like that to happen in a democracy. It’s a moment when the legal state and everything we believe in goes up in smokes. We also have issues we struggle with, but it’s difficult to understand such move. We had an occurrence when the President pardoned a tycoon convicted for tax evasion, who donated money for her campaign, but that was an individual case, which can bear a lot of questions, but it’s difficult to imagine your situation.
Tell me something more about your show. Why you went on HRT, why didn’t you go on some private TV station, since you knew that there are going to be political pressures?
Lucić: We were on private TV station, but we got an offer from HRT – 45-minute prime time show. We actually, used to believe, we have been living our entire lives with that cognizance, we used to believe that times when somebody could censor, prohibit a show, are long gone. Nobody thought of that. What we didn’t expect was the appearance of such government, which drew the line and stopped caring, and there weren’t many discussions on this topic. We truly thought that Croatia is on some other level in the democratic development, but that took us back in one cruel reality and we realized where we live and what’s the situation like.
This journalistic lesson was created within the framework of the USAID Media Strengthening in Macedonia Project - Media Fact-Checking Service Component,, mplemented by Metamorphosis. The journalistic lesson is made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents are the responsibility of its author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Metamorphosis, USAID or the United States Government. For more information on the work of USAID in Macedonia please visit its website (http://macedonia.usaid.gov) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/USAIDMacedonia).