Posts Tagged Slovenia

Cover Up Unveiled

The final volume of the trilogy In the Name of the State was published on 19 April 2012. Entitled ‘Prikrivanje’, Cover-up, it deals with the abuse of political and legal power of leading Slovene politicians around the time when the country gained its independence. Today’s guest blog by Rafael Njotea of Journalismfund.eu

Journalists Matej Šurc and Blaž Zgaga spent more than three years investigating and analysing more than 6000 pages of declassified official documents on the trade of arms in Slovenia during the Yugoslav Wars. They obtained the documents through the Slovene Freedom of Information Act. Journalists from six other countries cooperated in cross-border investigation. The research was co-financed by a Journalismfund.eu research grant.

The findings of the investigation are chronicled in the trilogy In the Name of the State, of which the last volume has now been completed. The first volume, published in June 2011, focused on the sale of arms and ammunition from the former Yugoslav People’s Army’s warehouses, which were seized during a ten-day military conflict in Slovenia in 1991. It was called ‘Odprodaja’ or Sell. The second volume, ‘Preprodaja’ or Resell, appeared in October 2011 and dealt with the purchase of arms abroad and subsequent resale to Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina during the UN arms embargo.

The third and final volume, ‘Prikrivanje’ or Cover-up, describes how the arms smugglers managed to keep their activities largely concealed for the last twenty years. It starts by bringing to light the conflicts between the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior after the Brnik scandal, in which 460 tons of arms, designated for resale in Bosnia and Herzegovina, arrived to Slovenia only to be stored at Brnik airport for months due to problems with the intended resale. Afterwards, the book examines the three parliamentary inquiries on the arms trades that were initiated over the years and the intrigues and obstacles that politicians put up to thwart them. The last of these parliamentary inquiries was triggered by the biggest arms deal in the history of Slovenia – a 278 million EUR purchase of the Finnish armoured vehicles Patria that was concluded in 2006. The Patria case is under investigation in Finland, Austria and Slovenia. Two dozens of suspects are on trial for bribery and industrial espionage, one of them being the former and current Prime Minister of Slovenia, former chairperson of the Council of the European Union in the first half of 2008.

With the publication of this third volume of the trilogy, the research project has reached its final stages as one of the most significant investigations in Slovene history. It uncovered some of the country’s hidden chapters had been kept under veil the past two decades.

Read about the previous books in the series and reactions to them here.

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Reporting forbidden?

“Media and politics – the tension between freedom of the press and personal rights in print media and the internet”. Monday November 9th, 18.30, Residence Palace, Brussels – se invitation at the bottom of this blog entry.

Can only Norwegian media report about the British parliament? For one absurd day exactly that appears to have been the case last month, when the Guardian was gagged to report about a certain company by a court injunction. Norwegians colleagues were threatened with legal steps but published in Norway and online about the story.  A unique cross-border coopearation of colleagues from the Guardian, BBC, Volkskrant and NRK.

Earlier this year in Brussels a German liberal member of the European Parliament, who wanted to be re-elected, systematically approached media with threats to withhold one certain information: Her attendance figures in the previous period. What caused the politician to act, as she did, is not known. But her lawyer did get a temporary injunction against the important German daily FAZ, she tried to stop parts of an interview in German public service tv ARD, she tried to stop Brussels journalist and blogger Hajo Friedrich and she tried to stop German journalist and blogger David Schraven of Ruhrbarone. Her various actions were reported by German media magazine Zapp.

In Italy sueing journalists appears to be near normal. According to Italian MEP Mario Mauro from the first of January 1994 till 2009 6.745 penal and civil cases have been announced against press and tv. The average is 449 yearly, more than one a day.

Slovenia has accused Finnish journalist Magnus Berglund, who researched and aired a story about alleged corruption in an arms deal between Finnish company Patria and Slovenia. Finnish police is currently investigating the case.

Going furhter south from Slovenia to EU applicant countries in the Balkans, the situation gets even worse. Croatian journalist Hrvoje Appelt – currently under police protection  – has started to gather information about assaults against journalists in his own country and the neighbouring countries. Do run his overview over assaults against journalists through Google translate – it is saddening reading.

When Reporters Sans Frontieres recently published its annual index of press freedom, the conclusion read “Europe continues to recede”.

“Europe should be setting an example as regards civil liberties. How can you condemn human rights violations abroad if you do not behave irreproachably at home?” Thus reads the text of the press freedom watchers.

Coming Monday one step is taken to address at least one of the aspects. Journalists have invited politicians and lawyers to talk about the issue with each other in Brussels.

„Media and politics – the tension between freedom of the press and personal rights in print media and the internet“

Experts on the panel and in the audience discuss in German and English (simultaneous translation provided)

in the Residence Palace, Brussels, Rue de la Loi 155, Room Polak

on Monday 9 November 2009,

18.30 Welcome drinks

19.00 – 20.30 Panel discussion

On the Panel:

Philippe Leruth (Vice-President of the European Federation of Journalists, EFJ), Klaus-Heiner Lehne (MEP (PPE) and Chairman of the Legal Affairs Committee in the European Parliament), David Schraven (Freelance Jounalist and Blogger of the German website „Ruhrbarone“), Martin Huff (Journalist and Lawyer, Director of the Local Bar of Cologne), Eberhard Kempf (Lawyer, German Bar Association) and Gregor Kreuzhuber (Partner, GPlus-Communications Consultancy; Brussels)

Chair:

Hajo Friedrich (freelance journalist).

Manifold are the tensions between media and the people in the focus of media coverage. More and more often political reporting in print media and the internet is subject to – often costly – litigation in court. According to the Italian MEP Mario Mauro politicians in Italy have brought 6745 civil and criminal proceedings against media coverage since 1994. Also German MEPs have in the past filed law suits against the press.

In most cases there is a conflict between freedom of the press and personal rights, between journalists who investigate and politicians who feel pilloried. A new development seems to be that top politicians and other prominent figures take legal action against media reports even beyond national borders as with the World Wide Web print media have increased their sphere of influence enormously. In this regard the „internal market“ of the World Wide Web already has difficulties to respond to the question which national law and which court of jurisdiction are applicable.

Beyond identifying the essential issues in view of the above-mentioned tensions the panellists – together with the audience – will seek to find morals, answers and compromise solutions. For the first time the panel discussion will bring together representatives of almost all involved parties in Brussels: journalists and their lobbyists, lawyers, politicians, media and public affairs consultants.

The discussion will be in English and German (simultaneous translation German/English and vice versa will be available). Drinks & Snacks will be provided.

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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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