AIM: start

MON, 31 DEC 2001 02:20:38 GMT

Croatian Secret Services Spied on AIM

AIM Zagreb, December 23, 2001

Tudjman’s secret police - Service for Protection of the Constitutional System (SZUP) – systematically followed the work of the Alternative Information Network (AIM) for years by bugging the telephone of AIM’s editor and journalists. Among the dossiers of 126 journalists compiled by the agents of SZUP, there are police notes which show that AIM was the object of interest of Croatian secret services for a long time. When the journalists who were treated as enemies of the state and therefore spied on by secret police were given access to these dossiers, the proportions of Tudjman’s paranoia became quite clear. In police files marked as “highly confidential” not only conversations of some of AIM’s journalists were noted, but also their contacts with the colleagues from abroad and especially with the central office in France. Although all the articles of AIM journalists have always been public and since a few years ago can be found on AIM’s web site, the police dossier of AIM’s editor for Croatia contained, among other, integral texts of the articles from the production of Alternative Information Network.

AIM has not worked illegally in Croatia, least of all secretly. Its editor in Zagreb was accredited by the Information Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, like all foreign correspondents in Croatia. The accreditation was duly issued and thanks to that he was able to follow the work of the Croatian Assembly and visit other state institutions. SZUP became interested in AIM from the very beginning, but in the first police notes the abbreviation of Alternativna informativna mreza – AIM – was misspelled as EAM. When AIM editor for Croatia got a computer and modem by means of which articles were exchanged between AIM editorial boards in the capitals of the states established after dissolution of former Yugoslavia, this was noted in police files as “installed equipment”. The term “installed equipment” is associated with the activities of spies which should not cause wonder when one sees that AIM editor in Croatia and some of the other associates of the Alternative Informaton Network whose phones were also bugged, were under surveillance under suspicion that they were engaged in extremist, even terrorist activities!

The object of interest of SZUP, it is evident from the notes collected in the dossiers of the tailed journalists, were also the meetings of AIM editors and journalists held abroad, mostly in Austria. Since in the beginning and middle of the nineties it was not possible to travel freely in the countries of former Yugoslavia, editorial meetings of AIM were mostly held in Austria or some other country outside the region that was stricken by war.

After a meeting of AIM journalists in Switzerland in 1994, two Croatian dailies, Vjesnik and Vecernji list, carried what Swiss newspapers had written about the activities of AIM on the territory of former Yugoslavia. This was an introduction into a campaign that followed. In one of his speeches that followed, Croatia’s president Franjo Tudjman accused AIM of being one of the organizations that were keen on reconstruction of Yugoslavia. Everybody who even superficially knows anything about the circumstances in Croatia at the time must be aware that this accusation was equal to an accusation for high treason. That Tudjman’s propaganda used all kinds of means to scare people of possible revival of Yugoslavia is illustrated by the results of public opinion polls carried out at the time. In the list of things the Croats were afraid of the most, fear of reconstruction of Yugoslavia ranked third – immediately after the fear of war and unemployment, but higher than fear of poverty!

“The number is increasing of those in the world who are trying to prove that the independence of Croatia, Slovenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina was recognized much too soon and saying that it would perhaps be best to renew some kind of a South Slavic or Balkan confederation: indeed it has not been officially stressed, but we are witnessing that for example Vukobrat from Paris has officially submitted such a proposal to the European Union, such ideas were repeated at the gathering in Opatija, and there are attempts to revive them in diplomatic circles. Some people in Croatia fall for such ideas, and alternative information media with 70 odd journalists from entire former Yugoslavia are helping them”, said Tudjman at a meeting of top echelons of his party, Croat Democratic Union (HDZ), which was, of course, carried by all the media in Croatia.

That is how AIM was put on the list of the most dangerous enemies by the very top of Croatia, so it is no wonder that the journalists of Alternative Information Network were under intensive police surveillance. The object of interest of Tudjman’s secret services was also the question how AIM was financed. In one of police notes contained in the dossier of AIM editor for Croatia, information is stated that 80 per cent of the money came from the European Union. Among police notes there are also data about who and when founded AIM and the names of some of the foreigners who participated in it.

Apart from being a frequent target of the commentaries of regime newspapers that presented AIM in the sense of the quoted Tudjman’s speech – that it advocated restoration of Yugoslavia – AIM appeared in this context in the book titled “Western Balkan” by Andjelko Milardovic, Professor of Croat Studies in Zagreb. This book with the following subtitle “The Concept, Ideas and Documents on Reconstruction of the Balkan in the Process of Globalization” printed in Zagreb in 2000, describes AIM in detail on fifteen odd pages. The organization structure of AIM is described, its objectives, production, international support and main activities. The author of the book literally carried all the data as they can be found on AIM’s Internet pages and even states that his source was AIM’s web site.

The very title of the book – “Western Balkan” – is indicative because the phrase is linguistically a synonym of paranoia Tudjman’s regime spread for years threatening the Croatian citizens with dark world conspiracies that were aimed to forcefully push Croatia into a new Yugoslavia. In his public appearances, Milardovic claimed that “Western Balkan” was just a different name for a new South Slavic community the European Union was advocating. He clearly said so in one of his texts published last summer with the title “So Long to Yugoslavia, Hello to Western Balkan” in the weekly for Croatian emigrants called Dom i svijet (Homeland and the World) that is published by pro-HDZ Croat Information Centre. Inclusion of AIM in the book “Western Balkan” goes along the lines of Tudjman’s thesis that the Alternative Information Network belongs among those who are doing their best to reconstruct some form of a future association of the countries that had formed former Yugoslavia until 1990.

The fact that secret services spied on AIM’s journalists at the time of Tudjman, bugged their phones and noted the contacts they had, testifies about the dark side of that regime that recognized “the enemies of the state” all around it. But the awareness that these journalists were classified in the group of persons the police tailed for extremism and terrorism testifies that the intentions of those who issued orders to the police to do it were exceptionally dangerous. With such accusations in regimes similar to that of Tudjman, one could end up in prison for many years. For the fact that nothing of the kind has happened to AIM’s journalists, they can thank the fact that the Council of Europe and the European Union did support Alternative Information Network. Even for Tudjman it would have been too much to declare war on entire Europe because of a few “enemies of the state”.

Drago Hedl