The police and DORH did not inform journalists that they were targeted by an alleged terrorist

PU sibensko-kninska

Original article (in Croatian) was published on 23/11/2022

A man arrested in Sibenik is accused of planning a terrorist attack on many people, including the editor-in-chief of Faktograf.

This week, 53-year-old Drazen Kostan from Sibenik was charged with planning terrorist attacks. The police and the state attorney’s office believe Kostan planned attacks on many people: politicians, judges, doctors, scientists, journalists, and various institutions. Kostan’s “kill list” also features the editor-in-chief of Faktograf, Petar Vidov.

None of the journalists on whom Kostan was gathering information was informed about this by the competent institutions, although Kostan was arrested back in March 2022 and then suspected of robbery, the elements of a more serious crime appeared later in the investigation.

Journalists on whom Kostan collected information, including the editor-in-chief of Faktograf, were only informed about his activities this week through Jutarnji list.

In its print edition published on Wednesday, Jutarnji list published the names of the journalists on whom Kostan, according to the indictment, was planning to conduct terrorist attacks. According to Jutarnji list, along with the editor-in-chief of Faktograf, the list included a columnist from 24 sata Tomislav Klauski, Jutarnji’s columnist Ante Tomic and the editorial staff of television N1.

We found from Jutarnji that Kostan was collecting various information about the people he planned to attack and that the police took the threat seriously because an impressive arsenal of firearms and military equipment was found in Kostan’s possession, including pistols, hand grenades, a machine gun with a sound suppressor and laser aiming, a hand-held rocket launcher… Although they considered the threat serious enough to charge Kostan with terrorism, the police and DORH did not think they should inform the journalists whom Kostan allegedly intended to attack.

On Monday, the Faktograf editorial office received unofficial information that we are on Kostan’s “list”. We contacted the addresses of various institutions, including the State Attorney’s Office, the County State Attorney’s Office in Zagreb, the County State Attorney’s Office in Sibenik, and the police, to verify if this information was correct. No one wanted to answer our questions, even though the Criminal Procedure Act guarantees victims of criminal offences the right to be informed about the procedure.

Moreover, it would be reasonable if the people believed to be the target of the man accused of preparing a terrorist attack were interviewed during the investigation. However, the police and the prosecutor’s office apparently did not ask themselves whether the journalists who became Kostan’s targets because of their work had any information that could help them in the investigation.

Kostan intended to commit the terrorist attacks he is accused of planning because of his views on the Covid-19 pandemic, i.e. the epidemiological measures that were introduced to make it difficult for the SARS-CoV-2 virus to spread. On his Facebook profile, Kostan often shared disinformation and conspiracy theories related to the pandemic, epidemiological measures and vaccination against Covid-19. He spread the lies of the Russian regime about the war in Ukraine, glorified Vladimir Putin and spread disinformation propagated by the QAnon community, as well as claims of the globally well-known conspiracy theorist David Icke (who is convinced that lizard men rule the world) and his domestic counterpart Kresimir Misak (who has been provided space for promoting pseudoscience and various conspiracy theories by Croatian public television for decades).

During 2020 and 2021, the Faktograf editorial office reported about fifty death threats and physical violence threats to the police. No one has yet been held criminally responsible for the threats sent to Faktograf’s journalists. Such threats come more intensively when the hunt against Faktograf is led by public figures who believe that no one should expose the disinformation they send into the public space. Among the public figures who led the hunt against Faktograf are politicians like Marin Miletic, Zlatko Hasanbegovic, Nikola Grmoja, Miroslav Skoro or Nino Raspudic, scientists like Gordan Lauc, controversial entrepreneur Nenad Bakic and several marginal web portals whose editorial policy comes down to spreading propaganda and monetising disinformation circulating in the digital space.

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