In 2016, the newly elected government in Croatia abolished public grants for the funding of independent, non-profit media in the country. As a result, our news Web site, Forum.tm (established in 2013), faced extreme financial difficulties and had to lay off all employed staff. This situation forced us to find new, temporary sources of funding.
Our response was to start Croatia’s first ever crowdfunding campaign for a media project in November 2016. We called the campaign “Let Them See Us,” and established a fundraising goal of US$5,000 in one month — modest, due to the difficult social-economic situation in the country. Also, crowdfunding was new to Croatia, as was a philanthropic culture applied to news media.
We were skeptical about the success of the campaign, but the outcome was incredible. We reached our initial fundraising goal of US$5,000 in less than 24 hours. By the end of the month-long campaign, we had doubled our target, with funds raised of around US$10,000.
We attribute several factors to the success of our crowdfunding:
- Public recognition of Forum.tm as a serious and relevant media project, reporting on issues underrepresented in the entertainment-focused media scene in Croatia.
- Our continuous reporting on deviations occurring in the underdeveloped Croatian democracy, increased attacks on minority groups (ethnic and gender related attacks), growing hate speech, discrimination, and overall intolerance.
- Colleagues from other media organisations, which reported intensively on our campaign.
The general public seems to recognise that Forum.tm had become the target of an ideological purge led by a government intolerant of critical journalism. News media groups were deemed as enemies of the state. We started receiving anonymous threatening letters, and even had a break-in of our news room.
We are using the funds collected from our campaign donors to pay our journalists a basic salary of US$300 monthly (compared to the average salary in Croatia of US$800). These funds will support our journalism only for the next two months; the future funding of our media is still insecure.
Despite the problems that we face — from financial insecurity to threats to our journalists and editors — we have used our crowdfunding donations to continue with fearless journalism. We will not be frightened or stopped by the politics that target us as “public enemies,” or by threats. We owe it to our supporters to help Croatia become a truly democratic society, in which nobody will be threatened for expressing their opinion or fighting for progressive causes.