Feral Tribune was a Croatian political weekly magazine. Based in Split, it first started as a political satire supplement in Nedjeljna Dalmacija (the Sunday edition of the Slobodna Dalmacija daily newspaper) before evolving into an independent satirical weekly in 1993. In the 2000s it turned into a popular political weekly before it finally ceased publication in June 2008.
|Categories||Satirical news magazine|
|First issue||1984 (as a weekly supplement in Nedjeljna Dalmacija)|
June 1993 (as an independent weekly magazine)
|Final issue||19 June 2008|
The magazine, whose name was a play on Herald Tribune (see below), and which billed itself as a "weekly magazine for Croatian anarchists, protesters and heretics", commonly included a provocative satirical photomontage on the cover page, a short news section (titled "Informbiro"), editorials, interviews, a satirical section (titled "Feral Tromblon"), and sections on music, books and the Internet.
Another popular section, titled "Greatest Shits", included a collection of ludicrous statements made in the Croatian media by politicians and other public figures in the previous week. The magazine typically had between 50 and 100 pages in total. It was originally printed in black and white, later changed to full color glossy paper, but then reverted to black and white. In 1994 Feral Tribune also launched a book publishing department which published a series of works by renowned contemporary authors and intellectuals from ex-Yugoslav countries, such as Arsen Dedić, Slavenka Drakulić, Milan Kangrga, Mirko Kovač, Izet Sarajlić and Nenad Veličković, foreign writers such as Isaiah Berlin, Norberto Bobbio, Leonard Cohen and George Soros, as well as works by their in-house columnists such as Boris Dežulović and Viktor Ivančić.
Although the magazine was hugely popular in the 1990s and had received a number of international awards during the period, its circulation gradually declined in the 2000s. Following a series of financial difficulties and failed takeover negotiations with Europapress Holding, the magazine was forced to cease publication in 2008 and published its final issue on 19 June 2008. In March 2010 a digital archive of all articles ever published in Feral Tribune was published in the form of a four-disc DVD set.
The paper's name is likely a play on Herald Tribune. "Feral", in Dalmatian dialect, represents a petroleum or gas lamp, typically used on night fishing excursions. Dalmatian culture has a very intimate connection to the sea, and the term Feral is often used as the name of local sport clubs, performing groups etc... While the term "feral" typically refers to qualities associated with a wild or undomesticated animal in English, it is unlikely that the Croatian-speaking editors chose the title Feral for its meaning in English. On the other hand, it is quite possible that the editorial office enjoyed the double entendre that it elicited among foreign observers, giving the newspaper title an aura of its editorial independence and unwillingness to be tamed by political pressure. The paper was founded in 1984 by a trio of young journalists Viktor Ivančić, Predrag Lucić, and Boris Dežulović.
The trio named itself by combining letters in their names to form "VIVA LUDEŽ", meaning "long live madness". Their works appeared in weekly humour supplement of Split's daily newspaper, Slobodna Dalmacija, as well as Nedjeljna Dalmacija, a weekly newspaper. Some of its articles brought condemnation from local Party officials, as well as criminal proceedings which ended after the Croatian War of Independence. Some of VIVA LUDEŽ members were active in Omladinska Iskra, a Split-based magazine published by local organisation of the Socialist Youth League.
Feral received little attention until Yugoslavia broke apart in the early 1990s. Due to the change in the political system, there was nationwide confusion on many issues at the time. "Financial engineering", corruption, and the renewed independence resulted in changes in the government, a burst of patriotism, nationalism, and xenophobia. As a political satire paper, the Feral Tribune was provided significant material from the warmongering and profiteering associated with the era.
As the political situation got more and more serious and the country was at the threat of occupation, the contents of Feral Tribune steered away from pure satire and the editors began criticizing dominant political figures. The government took over control of Slobodna Dalmacija in early 1993.
A few months later, the Feral Tribune was introduced as an independent paper. Feral was among the first Croatian newspapers to openly report on various topics that the state-controlled newspapers would not report on including war crimes perpetrated by Croatian soldiers, the Croatian army's involvement in the war in Bosnia, Tuđman's revanchist opinions of the Ustaše in the context of generic Croatian nationalism, the Herzegovina profiteer lobby, connections between the government and the Catholic Church, etc. An important moment in the history of the magazine involved a cover page featuring digitally altered images of Tuđman and Milošević as homosexual lovers as an attack on policies leading to partition of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In 1994, a 50% sales tax typically imposed on pornographic magazines was imposed on the Feral by the HDZ government. This tax received criticism and in 1995 the Croatian Constitutional Court overturned the decision. In 1996, HDZ passed a law under which public criticism of the highest officials was punishable. The editors of Feral editors were among the first to be sued for defamation. Despite these issues, Feral Tribune continued to survive in part because of donations from abroad. Tuđman died in 1999 and his party was voted out of power on 2000 parliamentary elections.
Attempts to replace Tuđman with George W. Bush as a target led to the magazine embracing a stronger ideological profile and promoting radical left views which alienated some of its old readers and allowed other Croatian newsweeklies, most notably Globus and Nacional, to rise in their relative popularity. Feral was also affected by personnel changes with the departure of one of its founders.
While the magazine's circulation and influence were limited by these factors, the Feral Tribune continued to maintain a strong critical approach to the government. It criticised Prime Minister Ivica Račan for his unwillingness to distance himself from Tuđman's legacy and exposed corruption scandals related to his government. In 2003, after HDZ's return to power, Feral Tribune began to see a resurgence in popularity. In December 2005, Drago Hedl, the paper's editor, received an anonymous death threat by mail, for his reporting on the abduction and murder of ethnic Serb civilians in Osijek in 1991-92. This year, the International Center for Journalists is awarding Hedl a Knight International Award for excellence in journalism.
Financial troubles and closure
In June 2007, the paper missed two weekly issues due to financial problems. The editorial staff announced that their bank accounts had been blocked due to a VAT debt, and that several court rulings against the paper had imposed additional strain on their accounts. The staff accused the Croatian government of favoring governmental and nationalist media by writing off their VAT debts, thus creating an unfair competition to Feral. The finance ministry's decision to freeze the weekly's bank accounts was widely condemned in Croatia. Croatian officials, including the President Stjepan Mesić and the Prime Minister Ivo Sanader both pledged help to Feral Tribune, both acclaiming it as a contributor to the development of democracy in Croatia, but no help was actually offered.
On 28 June 2007, the paper began publication again. It was reported that, due to financial difficulties, it was to be bought by Europa Press Holding (EPH), the largest publisher in Croatia (Globus, Jutarnji list), sparking speculation regarding the future of Feral's independence. However, in June 2008, after the EPH started avoiding the paper's officials in takeover negotiations, Feral Tribune editors announced the end of the magazine. After 15 years, and numerous lawsuits from politicians, editors cited financial troubles due to lack of funding and the failure of negotiations with EPH as the causes.
Feral had won several important awards over the years:
- In 1992 it received Veselko Tenžera's award and the Stefanel award.
- In 1996 it won International Press Directory's award for freedom of the press.
- In 1997 it won the World Association of Newspapers' Golden Pen of Freedom, and an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
- In 1998 it received an award for the best political satire newspaper in the world, at the International fair of political satire in Forte dei Marmi.
- "Feral Tribune - digitalno izdanje!". Booksa.hr (in Serbo-Croatian). 10 March 2010. Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
- "Feral Tribune d.o.o. - nakladnici iz Hrvatske / Publishers from Croatia". Knjiga.hr (in Serbo-Croatian). Archived from the original on 21 July 2011. Retrieved 26 January 2011.
- Kordić, Snježana (5 April 2015). "Feral je perfekcija na svim razinama (govor na promociji knjige" [Feral: perfection at all levels (speech delivered at the book presentation)] (in Serbo-Croatian). Mostar: Tačno.net. Archived from the original on 5 April 2015. Retrieved 5 April 2015.
- Rašeta, Boris (19 June 2008). "Feral Tribune izdao zadnji broj i više neće izlaziti". 24sata (in Serbo-Croatian). Retrieved 26 January 2011.
- Saboljev, Sandra (4 April 2015). "Feral je danas potreban više nego 1993" [Feral is needed today more than 1993]. Novi list (in Serbo-Croatian) (22046): 81. ISSN 1334-1545.
- Feral Tribune profile, mediaturtle.com; accessed 17 November 2015.