Croatians protest closure of radio station (Radio 101), 1996


The goal of the protests was to reverse the closure order issued by the government to Radio 101.

Time period notes

Campaign lasted approximately 18 hours

Time period

Noon 20 November, 1996 to Morning 21 November, 1996



Location City/State/Province


Location Description

Ban Jelačić Square (outside of Radio 101)
Jump to case narrative

Segment Length

Approximately 3 hours


Radio 101 personnel


Croatian Peasant Party, Bad Blue Boys (fans of Croatia’s national football team)

External allies

See social elites

Involvement of social elites

US Ambassador to Croatia Peter Gabraith, US Department of State, Nino Pavic (prominent Croatian entrepreneur)


President Franjo Tudjman’s government and the Council of Communications (a 9-person council dominated by the President’s party)

Nonviolent responses of opponent

None known

Campaigner violence

None known

Repressive Violence

None known. Police had explicit orders not to use violence on the crowd





Group characterization

especially urban working and middle class
mostly younger people
Listeners of Radio 101

Groups in 1st Segment

Listeners to Radio 101
Croatian Peasant Party
Radio 101 personnel

Groups in 2nd Segment

Bad Blue Boys

Groups in 3rd Segment

US Ambassador to Croatia Peter Gabraith

Groups in 4th Segment

US Department of State

Groups in 6th Segment

Nino Pavic

Segment Length

Approximately 3 hours

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

6 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

10 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The government reversed their decisions to close Radio 101. The initial reversal was only temporary, but within a year, Radio 101’s contract had been renewed for five years—essentially a complete reversal and a complete fulfillment of all expressed goals.

The protests grew to over 100,000 and included people from a wide variety of occupations and ages. Some have called it the largest nonviolent gathering of people in Croatia since they gained their independence in 1991.

Database Narrative

In the 20th century, Croatia existed in several different
incarnations. Until 1918, Croatia was part of Austria-Hungary, but with the
dissolution of the empire, Croatia instead cofounded Yugoslavia with other
Balkan states. However, like the Austria-Hungary Empire previously, this state
also fell apart with the end of World War II. For a brief time, Croatia existed
as an independent state. This period ended with the founding of the Second
Yugoslavia and the rise of communism. Croatia existed as this entity until 1991
when they declared their independence and became a sovereign state.
Unfortunately, sovereignty did not prevent war between the remainder of the
Second Yugoslavia and the Croats and it was not until 1995 that the state fully
controlled their territory and expelled Serbian aggressors. Even then, the new
government, while not as harsh or despotic as the previous communist regime,
was only barely democratic.

Since 1984, Radio 101 had broadcasted on the frequency of
101 MHz (hence their name) from Zagreb, the capital of Croatia to over a
million Croatians as an independent radio station. The radio station had always
been critical of the government and unabashedly played rock music (both
Croatian and foreign) even when it was deemed inappropriate by the government.
Through seven years of a communist dictatorship, it remained mostly uncensored
despite the government’s disapproval of it.

On November 20, 1996, the Croatian government via the
Council of Communications, a 9-person council dominated by the President’s
party, revoked the broadcasting license of Radio 101 in favor of reassigning
their frequency to a less critical radio station (Radio Globus 101). Although
the government claimed this was because of financial reasons, it was obvious
that the main impetus was political in nature. This was later proven by
comments from lower officials. Because of Radio 101’s history, Croatians viewed
it as a symbol of their freedom from tyranny. Consequently, Croatians viewed
the decision by the government to close the radio station as an affront to
their hard-earned democracy and a threat to freedom of press.

After the government made their decision to revoke Radio
101’s license (at approximately noon on November 20), the staff of Radio 101
announced the decision on air. Almost immediately, the phone lines to the radio
station were swamped with calls from supporters. Only hours after that, people
began to rally in the streets outside of the station in Ban Jelačić Square (the
main square in Zagreb) in a spontaneous show of support for the station. By
night, the protesters numbered over 100,000 with some estimates putting the
total at 150,000.

These protesters carried signs with various slogans in
support of Radio 101 (including signs that read “We love drugs, sex, and rock
and roll”), held candles in something of a vigil, and played Radio 101 from
whatever devices they could. Radio 101 was airing calls of support, playing
favorite rock songs, and unabashedly making jokes at the expense of the
government. Simultaneously, taxi drivers in Zagreb caused a traffic jam in the
midst of the city (shutting down the city for the night for vehicular travel)
and honked their horns in support of the station.

According to some sources, those in attendance at the
protest included almost any social and economic group, from students, to
doctors, to lawyers, to factory workers. Additionally, the Bad Blue Boys, fans
of the Croatian national football team, planned a separate rally in an adjacent
square that brought another 6,000 people to the streets. Some sources also
report that Peter Gabraith, the U.S. Ambassador to Croatia, was in attendance
at the rally and reporting events back to the U.S. Department of State. This
eclectic group of people constituted the largest display of solidarity in Croatia
since it gained its independence in 1991.

Croatian laws required organizers of rallies in Zagreb to
gain a permit 48 hours before they began. However, the spontaneous nature of
the rally made this impossible. Consequently, the staff of Radio 101 feared
that the police might respond violently to suppress the “illegal” protest.
Although attempts to get a last-minute permit were in vain, the staff did
receive a promise from the police that they were under strict orders to avoid a
violent confrontation. Amazingly, neither side reported violence during the

It is also important to note that Franjo Tudjman, the
President of Croatia, was in the United States receiving medical treatment at
this time and did not play a direct role in his government’s revocation of
Radio 101’s license. However, there is evidence that suggests that he received
substantial pressure from the U.S. Department of State through public
statements and U.S. Vice President Al Gore while the protests were occurring to
reverse the decision. The European Union was also vocal about their disapproval
of the government’s decision.

At some point late in the night of November 20 or in the
early morning of November 21, the pressure on Tudjman’s party became great
enough that officials began publicly denouncing the decision on Radio 101 and
denying that they played any role in the debacle. This drew clear lines between
the various factions of the party that were played out in an emergency meeting
of the Council of Communications.

This session of the Council was held publicly and arguments
were thrown back-and-forth between members of the same party as well as other
parties about why Radio 101 should or should not have its license revoked.
Among other things, those that wanted Radio 101 off the air said that Radio
101’s use of foreign music subverted Croatian independence and culture. Such
comments were then critiqued on air as listeners called into Radio 101
constantly. In the end, this public debate further galvanized Radio 101’s
supporters behind the radio station and further split the debating President’s
party into two distinct camps.

Eventually, the Council decided to reverse their decision
and, instead, gave Radio 101 a temporary renewal of their license. Part of the
reason they reached this decision was that Nino Pavic, a prominent Croatian
entrepreneur and the owner of the future Radio Globus 101 station that was
supposed to take over Radio 101’s frequency, announced that he preferred not to
take away Radio 101’s frequency because it was so popular. Some sources suggest
that his announcement was made at the prompting of the government in an attempt
to save face, but this cannot be confirmed. Regardless, this marked the
reversal of the Council’s previous decision and, consequently, the continuation
of Radio 101.

The staff of Radio 101 announced their victory on air and
urged all of the protesters to return home. The protesters left without any
reports of violence.

While Radio 101’s contract was only renewed on a temporary
basis, this would be extended to a more permanent 5-year contract within less
than a year after the campaign. Ultimately, the protesters achieved all of
their goals in a relatively short period of time and made it clear to the
government that challenges to freedom of press would not be allowed.


Croatia’s independence protests in 1991 were an influence on the Radio 101 protests, especially because Radio 101 was viewed as a vital part of Croatia’s struggle for freedom as it remained independent throughout. (1)


"Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Croatia." UNHCR. Committee to Protect Journalists, Feb. 1997. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. <,CPJ,,HRV,47c564fe28,0.html>.

Boric, Stanko. "Jedanaest Godina Nezavisnosti Radija 101 -" 23 Nov. 2007. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. <>.

"Croatia Reverses Closing of Radio Station." New York Times, The (NY) 22 Nov. 1996, Late Edition - Final, Foreign Desk: 4. NewsBank. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

"Croatian leader vows to fight foreign influence." Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 24 Nov. 1996, Final, A News: NewsBank. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Daskalovic, Zoran, and Milivoj Dilas. "Radio 101: Independence Day." Ex-YU Press. 25 Nov. 1996. Web. 21 Nov. 2010. <>.

"From the Air: They Said It about 101." Ex-YU Press. 5 Dec. 1996. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <>.

Hedges, Chris. "Tudjman Seeks to Muzzle a Radio That Aided His Rise." Press Freedom Online. Committee to Protect Journalists, 1 Oct. 1996. Web. 30 Nov. 2010. <>.

Lovink, Geert. "Croatia -- Media Alert." Nettime Mailing List. 21 Nov. 1996. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <>.

Pomfret, John. “Dissent mounts in Serbia, Croatia – in Zagreb and 10 Serb cities, hundreds of thousands protest regimes.” Washington Post 23 Nov. 1996. NewsBank. Web. 30 Nov. 2010.

Prenc, Maden, Snježana Ivić, and Gordana Malašić. "Croats Do Not Have Power to Overthrow Cabinet - Top News - Current Events - Croatia -" Trans. Joseph Stedul. 30 Mar. 2009. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <>.


"U.S. Department of State Daily Press Briefing #189, 96-11-22." Hellenic Resources Network. 21 Nov. 1996. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <>.

Vukic, Igor. "Candles Lit for Radio 101." AIM | Alternative Information Network. 23 Nov. 1996. Web. 20 Nov. 2010. <>.

Additional Notes

This campaign is unique in that it appears to be entirely spontaneous. While the Radio 101 personnel did call for protestors to gather, the time frame (within hours) coupled with the number that showed up (over 100,000) is incredible to say the least. It could be helpful to research cultural factors and more background on Radio 101 to figure out this anomaly.

Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Matthew Heck, 28/11/2010