„On 3 June 1948, the Board of the Croatian Journalists Society adopted the proposal of Narodni Sport newspaper journalists to establish a section of journalists writing for physical culture sections“

 

The founding assembly of the Section was held on 6 April 1949. Miroslav Habunek was appointed as the first Chairman, Zvone Mornar as Secretary General. Elected as Chairman only a year later, in 1950, Zvone Mornar would become the longest-serving Chairman to date (21 years!).

 

The founding assembly was held in the then Journalists Club, Gajeva Street 2b, Zagreb. Numerous participants were welcomed by Slavko Filipi, Secretary General of the Croatian Physical Culture Society. Section Rules were adopted. Members showed great interest in seminars that would benefit their professional development.

 

The founding of the Section undoubtedly showed that the establishment of the first professional association at the federal level, although within the republic (Croatian) organization at the time, was initiated in Zagreb, as there had been no other sports journalists sections within either the Croatian Journalists Society or the Yugoslav Journalists Association. No wonder, as there were regular weekly meetings between sports journalists and prominent representatives of the Croatian sports federations and institutions in Croatia's capital during 1948. They were initiated by Miroslav Habunek, Narodni Sport editor, and Hrvoje Macanović, the first professional sports journalist in Croatia, who worked at Radio Zagreb from the day it began broadcasting (15 May 1926). Although these meetings were not mandatory, they always had great attendance, not only by full-time professional journalists, but also by part-time associates.

 

The Section additionally advanced professional development by organizing exhibitions of sports publications, as well as public presentations of sports and athletes throughout Croatia. The Sports Journalists Section was clearly a pioneer and trendsetter, as other specialist sections were founded within the Journalists Society after it.

 

Interestingly, the Federal Sports Journalists Section within the Yugoslav Journalists Association was only founded in 1964, and it was again initiated by the Croatian Section, more precisely, by tireless Miroslav Habunek. That same year, the Federal Section became a full member of the AIPS at its congress in Munich.

 

Close ties with the AIPS and the wish of Yugoslav journalists to make a big entrance into the world of European and global sports journalism led to Yugoslavia hosting the AIPS Congress in 1970. Hosted and organized by the Croatian Sports Journalists Section (Žarko Susić was Chairman and Milka Babović Vice-Chairwoman), it took place at the Excelsior Hotel in Dubrovnik from 20 to 24 April.
What was unique about it was that most of the funding necessary to organize it was donated by national premier football league players, from the proceeds from 10 games. Everybody won something in the raffle organized on the last evening of the congress; Matti Salmenkyla, a great Finnish journalist, won Elan skis! The City of Dubrovnik went down in AIPS history by presenting it with a flag, which has been passed on to each organizer of AIPS congresses to date!

 

Thanks to the Dubrovnik success, Croatia hosted another congress only 8 years later – the 42nd AIPS Congress took place at the Lav Hotel in Split from 7 to 10 November 1978. One of the reasons was the fact that Split was to host the 1979 Mediterranean Games. This started the AIPS tradition of entrusting the organization of its congresses to the cities, which were to host major sporting events soon afterwards.

 

The crucial moment in the history of sports journalism, but also journalism and life in Croatia in general, was in 1991, during the war, when the new independent Republic of Croatia was at the beginning of its European path. Due to the situation and the war, in the meeting called by Darko Draženović on 8 August 1991, Croatian sports journalists made the decision to leave the Yugoslav Sports Journalists Association and apply for the AIPS membership. A quick counterreaction of the Board of the Yugoslav Physical Culture Association excluded Croatian journalists from the list of journalists accredited for the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, but they founded the Croatian Sports Journalists Society on 5 September 1991. Darko Draženović was elected as Chairman and Ivica Vukotić as Secretary General.

 

Soon, thanks to the great help from the UEPS and AIPS, the International Olympic Committee found a solution for Croatian journalists, and Croatia received 5 accreditations for the Olympic Winter Games in Albertville, and as many as 20 accreditations for the Barcelona Olympics, the first Olympic Games, in which Croatia participated as an independent country.

 

Good ties with the AIPS and quick actions of the new association resulted in it joining the AIPS at its 55th Congress held in Budapest from 28 April to 2 May 1992. It needs to be emphasized that the then AIPS President Frank Taylor and Secretary General Istvan Gyulai played the key role in skipping the usual two-year long admittance procedure. Besides, the memories of the AIPS congresses in Split and Dubrovnik were also strong enough. After all, the flag made in Dubrovnik and presented to the AIPS in 1970 was also hoisted during that congress, as well as during all previous ones! In Budapest, the Croatian Sports Journalists Society was represented by Darko Draženović and Žarko Susić. Their personal contacts and ample experience as journalists were crucial for Slovenia's Evgen Bergant, then UEPS Vice-President, to come forward and explain the relations with the Yugoslav Sports Journalists Association that cancelled all Croatian accreditations for the approaching Olympic Games.

 

At its Assembly meeting in the town of Rovinj on 26 November 1994, the Croatian Sports Journalists Society changed its name to the Croatian Sports Journalists Association (CSJA).

 

A decade after setting up new relations within the Association, the CSJA started rising in both the European and global hierarchy, thanks to the commitment of Chairman Jura Ozmec (elected in 2003) and Secretary General Marin Šarec (who served from 2003 to 2011). At the same time, a solid system of financing the Association in Croatia was being developed and  activities to attract more members to the CSJA and AIPS intensified. In 2010, the CSJA became financially independent from its umbrella organization, the Croatian Journalists Association, but remained one of its most active members. At the European election in Dublin in 2006, Jura Ozmec was elected as UEPS Vice-President. He served until 2010. In 2013, he was elected to the AIPS Executive Board. These are the highest posts that any Croatian journalist has ever held in the UEPS and AIPS. While marking the 60th anniversary of the CSJA, a festive meeting of the UEPS Executive Committee was held in Zagreb from 6 to 8 September 2009. AIPS President Gianni Merlo attended as a special guest. During the celebration, all living CSJA Chairmen received recognitions for their contribution to the activities of their professional association.

 

Led by the idea from Dubrovnik in 1970, the CSJA has always sought to have as many representatives in international bodies as possible; in 2013, our colleague Dražen Pinević (Sportske Novosti daily sports newspaper) became a permanent member of the AIPS handball commission and Damir Senčar (HINA) of the photo commission.

 

From 2004 to 2014, the CSJA was the initiator, active participant and main implementer of the initiative to found the South East European Sports Journalists Association.  Nikola Lipovac, a CSJA Executive Committee member and journalist of the Jutarnji list daily newspaper, became its first Chairman at its founding assembly in Ohrid, FYROM, on 10 October 2014.

 


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Sources of information:
-    History of Sport magazine, issue 57 (October, November, December 1983), page 297: Miroslav Habunek „Proposal to Establish Croatian Sports Journalists Section Adopted 35 Years Ago““
-    Publication: Remembering Journalism, publisher: CSJA, 2009, editor: Marin Šarec, texts by Darko Draženović („From Vjesnik Basement to AIPS“) and Milka Babović („Section of Journalists Working for Physical Culture Sections“, „Skis for Salmenkyla“ and „Phone Line Gimmick“)
-    „The history of AIPS 1924-2014“ by Jose Maria Lorente,  Baku 2014
-    official documents of the CSJA
-    CSJA website