Prime minister initiates criminal proceedings against Finnish journalist
Vienna, 8 October 2008
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), condemns efforts by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jan?a to initiate criminal proceedings against Finnish journalist Magnus Berglund in Slovenia.
"This latest development represents yet another unnecessarily aggressive attempt to redress the Finnish media's handling of the Patria Affair," said IPI Director David Dadge. "We call on Mr. Jan?a to drop the threat of criminal proceedings and to pursue his claim in a manner that supports freedom of the press and editorial independence."
According to information before IPI, on 7 October 2008, Mr. Jan?a's attorneys filed a request with the Slovenian state prosecutor's office, seeking the initiation of criminal charges against Berglund under sections I, II and III of Article 171 of the penal code. These code provisions penalize assertions, circulated through the press, radio, television or other means of public information, which may cause "grave consequences" for the defamed individual. The maximum penalty imposed for such a violation is imprisonment of one year.
The charges stem from the 1 September 2008 broadcast of a segment entitled "The Truth about Patria", by Finnish public broadcaster YLE, which alleged that members of the Slovenian government, including Mr. Jan?a, accepted bribes from the Finnish defence contractor Patria. The allegations have been vehemently denied by Mr. Jan?a. Berglund, a journalist for YLE, authored the report.
Last month, the Slovenian government used diplomatic channels to exert pressure on the Finnish government in response to the broadcast, sending a diplomatic note to the Finnish Embassy in Slovenia warning that the documentary "could shake mutual confidence between the two states." (See the IPI 11 September statement: "IPI Concerned at Slovenian Government's Use of Diplomatic Pressure in Response to Finnish Media's Handling of Patria Bribery Affair" at http://www.freemedia.at/cms/ipi/statements_detail.html?ctxid=CH0055&docid=CMS1221125917435 )