Sunday, March 07, 2004

Brave New Times

Sanader's government obviously didn't waste much time developing scandals of its own. Less than three months after taking office, four of its top officials were involved in major controversy.

The last is Mladen Kovačić (Mladen Kovacic), member of Croatian Healthcare Fund's board. One week ago he called couple of journalists to dinner and, according to reporters' testimonies, tried to offer them large sums of money in exchange for positive coverage of his institution.

Officials being involved in illegal and unethical practices are hardly new to Croatia, but this time there is one major difference. Unlike the old times, media – more due to intense competition than due to sudden burst of moralistic notions – is willing not only to report about those things but actually go to the jugular. This time they felt personally offended and they did not only declined Kovačić's offer, but actually reported about it.

Of course, Andrija Hebrang, Croatian health minister, tried to defend his man by accusing reporters of hypocrisy and threatening to publish documents detailing Račan's (Racan's) government having same kind of fruitful relationship with media. Quality of Hebrang's evidence was, apparently, insufficient to sway public opinion and only created even more outrage towards new government. In such circumstances, Hebrang was left with no other option but to ask Kovačić to resign, which he did.

This affair shows how Croatia actually progressed in recent years. A decade, idea of bribing reporters was inconceivable to Tudjman's government. In those days reporters were supposed to write only what they were ordered to.


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