Oddly Enough

Croatian daily embarrassed by hoax PM interview

ZAGREB (Reuters) - A leading Croatian daily was deeply embarrassed when it published an interview with the prime minister that turned out to be a hoax by a journalism student who answered the editor’s questions by e-mail.

The “interview” with Ivo Sanader, focused on Croatia’s drive to join the European Union and NATO, was published by the Jutarnji List on Saturday -- only for the government to deny it had taken place.

The daily’s editor, Davor Butkovic, admitted he had not spoken to Sanader, but said he had exchanged cell phone messages and agreed to receive answers in an e-mail.

On Monday, a 23-year-old journalism student confirmed he had sent the answers to the editor from a private e-mail address, after Butkovic mistook his cell phone number for that of the prime minister and texted him to ask for an interview.

Butkovic and the chief editor offered to resign and the Jutarnji List apologised -- but said the hoax might have been thought up by rival newspapers.

The student had worked briefly for the weekly Nacional and had friends at Jutarnji’s rival daily, Vecernji List. Both denied any involvement.

“Jutarnji is trying to pass the buck, but the fact remains that it published a fake interview, by one of its most prominent political journalists,” Vecernji List said in an editorial on Tuesday.

“We are not part of any conspiracy and we are not gloating over this mistake. On the contrary, we are deeply worried because it shows a degradation of our profession,” it said.

Reporting by Zoran Radosavljevic, Editing by Tim Pearce