Slovenia accuses Finnish journalist

Several European journalists are fought by legal means these months: Recently a German MEP used lawyers against several journalists, writes German journalism magazine Message.

Now Slovenia brings a criminal case against an award-winning Finnish colleague.

Journalist Magnus Berglund of Finnish broadcaster YLE faces up to six months in prison in Slovenia, if found guilty in a case about ‘criminal defamation’ brought by Slovenia, according to several sources, most recently the International Press Institute.

“The charges are linked to an aired MOT story about a suspected bribery case involving defence materiel manufacturer Patria and top Slovenian officials,” writes broadcaster YLE in a press release.

The documentary, which was broadcast last autumn in YLE programme MOT, claimed that “defence material manufacturer Patria bribed Slovenian officials, including Prime Minister Janez Jansa, to the tune of 21 million euro in order to secure orders worth millions of euro. Jansa has denied any wrongdoing in the deal,” according to the YLE press release in English language. The English transcript of the documentary is published on the YLE site.

Berglund as well as MOT’s producer Matti Virtanen continue to stand by the work done on the report. Finnish police have followed leads in the case to Slovenia as well as Austria.

Berglund will avoid to travel to Slovenia anytime soon, he says. “They would probably arrest me as soon as I set foot in the country. Fortunately, Finland doesn’t plan to send me there for questioning.”

The International Press Institute explains, that according to Slovenian law government and other officials can claim “criminal defamation”, whereas other citizens are referred to civil law.

“The Slovenian authorities should drop this case immediately as it flies in the face of law at the European level regarding freedom of expression. The European Court of Human Rights has consistently stated that politicians must expect greater criticism than average citizens, and yet the law prosecuting Berglund was plainly created to enable politicians to evade or escape criticism,” said IPI Director David Dadge in the IPI press release of July 31st on the case.

The documentary “Truth about Patria” was broadcast on September 1st 2008 only weeks before an election in Slovenia, which brought victory to Jansa’s opponent.

Read also Slovenian journalist Blaz Zgaga’s comment in the Guardian on the Berglund case and not least on the situation for journalists in Slovenia.

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