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Croatia PM Continues Balkan Tradition of Sexist Remarks

The Croatian PM's latest patronising comment to a female TV reporter – for which he has apologised – reflects a long tradition of Balkan politicians making sexist remarks to women journalists.

TV crews prepare to cover a trial. Photo: EPA-EFE/YOAN VALAT

Croatia’s Prime Minister, Andrej Plenkovic, has swiftly apologised for making a patronising and sexist answer to a female journalist after she asked a question about a scandal involving leaked inside information on police and prosecution operations.

“You are sweet, Damira,” Plenkovic told reporter Damira Gregoret on Wednesday, after being asked about the scandal which erupted after police arrested an IT worker who had reportedly received the information.

He soon apologised, saying there had been no intention of showing disrespect.

However, Plenklovic’s observation forms part of a long tradition among Balkan politicians of making sexist remarks to women journalists.

In August, Zagreb Mayor Milan Bandic told journalist Ivana Pezo Moskaljov to be a “fine lady”, during to a visit of a waste landfill site in Zagreb.

“If I was as clever as you are, I would work in Nova TV,” he remarked, adding: “You are like a naughty teacher; be a fine lady.”

The Croatian Journalists’ Association called this remark inappropriate and urged him and other public figures to stop insulting journalists for posing questions in the public interest.

Politicians elsewhere in the Balkan region are often equally patronising to women reporters.

When he was asked in May 2017 about the name of his new civic movement in Serbia, the politician and former Serbian ombudsman Sasa Jankovic told N1’s Minja Miletic: “I can tell you, but then I have to kiss you.”

In December 2015, Serbian Defence Minister Bratislav Gasic was slated for his gross remark to Zlatija Labovic, a journalist from TV B92, during a visit to a factory in Trstenik.

After she crouched down to get out of her camera operator’s way, Gasic said: “I love female journalists who get down on their knees easily”.

Gasic later issued an apology for the offence he had caused and was later fired after sparking public anger. In 2017 Gasic was appointed to lead Serbia’s Security Information Agency.

The Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, president of Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, is well known for his use of expletives in front of journalists – men and women alike.

Back in 2008, Dodik told TV reporter Arijana Saracevic Helac, when she asked about his opinion of the constitutional reform process in Bosnia: “I do not give a f**k”, using the swear word in front of numerous journalist and politicianss.

In 2011, Dodik had a similar incident when Saracevic Helac was working for the political TV show 60 minutes on Federation entity TV. After insulting the TV show itself, he commented of the journalist: “You are polite, that is why I decide to talk to you. But you are not pretty”.

“Croatian politicians show a complete lack of understanding of the functioning of the Croatian media, and are unable to deal with criticism and with what the media does, which is to serve the public,” Hrvoje Zovko, president of Croatian Journalists’ Association said on Wednesday for N1 regional television.

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