Unmasking a Shady Government: Slovenian Journalist Anuška Delić Accused of Leaking Intelligence Agency Secrets
Mar 01, 2014 09:48 PM EST
Slovenia, a country with just over 2 million people, which broke away from Yugoslavia in June 1991, is largely perceived as a growing democracy nestled between the Balkans and Western Europe. In 2004, the country was accepted into both NATO and the European Union.
Despite its apparent geopolitical ascendancy, political corruption and connections between neo-Nazi groups and political parties have caused great alarm in recent years. These are some of the themes Anuška Delić has tackled as a reporter with her newspaper Delo. As a result of her exposés, she has been indicted for allegedly publishing classified secrets. If she is found guilty, Delić could face up to three years in prison.
During her investigative reporting of the 2011 parliamentary campaign, Delić wrote about links between the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), led by former Prime Minister Janez Janša with "Blood and Honor," a neo-Nazi group. Delić said that the Slovene Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA) trumped up charges against her as retaliation for her investigative journalism.
In an EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW with Lawyer Herald, (LH), the Ljubljana native explains her legal fight, the nefarious links between Slovenian political officials and extremist parties, as well the pervasive air of censorship, which exists in the country.
Lawyer Herald: Which news outlets do you work with and what have you covered in recent years?
AD: I work for Delo, the main national daily newspaper in Slovenia, where I am a reporter with Ozadja (translated as Backgrounds). which is published as a special section of the newspaper on Mondays.
LH: What is the thrust of your investigative reporting and on what grounds have the Slovenian Prosecutors' Office indicted you?
AD: The centerpiece of my investigation regarded the ties between the Slovenian Democratic Society (SDS) and the Slovenian division of the worldwide neo-Nazi organization 'Blood and Honor' (B&H). A few months after Anders Breivik massacred.85 people in Norway in July 2011, I received tips that the Slovenian B&H communicated with Breivik before his attacks and that Dejan Prosen, the informal leader of B&H, was active in SDS's youth party, known as Slovenska Demokratska Mladina (SDM). I investigated these tips and was able to confirm that Prosen was indeed active in SDM, a youth party in Žiri, his hometown. Prosen also was actively participating in the election campaign of SDS's parliamentary candidate Irena Tavčar, a current member of parliament.
When I called him, he confirmed he had been a member of SDS but denied everything else; he claimed he was a member of the so-called patriotic organization Tukaj je Slovenija. [As it turned out], this organization has been a 'breeding ground' for future B&H members.
LH: What were some of the conclusions you reached in your investigative reporting? What were you indicted for?
AD: I had been trying to confirm information that members of B&H were also members of the Slovenian Armed Forces. I had names of at least 2 members, and I received information that some B&H members were also employed by the Slovenian police forces, which I could not confirm. After Breivik's massacre in Norway, there was an internal investigation at the Slovenian Ministry of Defense where the Intelligence and Security Service within the ministry was supposed to investigate the alleged presence of Neo-Nazi elements in the army. The investigation found that no members were charged with criminal activity under Article 297 of the Slovenian Law Code, which prohibited public promotion of hatred, violence or discrimination. However, under the ethics code of the Slovenian Army, soldiers are not allowed to participate in events which promote discrimination. I wrote about this [topic] the next day.
As a result, I was indicted for publishing classified information, which they claim I acquired from the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency. The charges pertained to the 2nd paragraph of article 260 of the Slovenian Criminal Code prohibiting the disclosure of classified information. It is punishable with a prison sentence of a maximum 3 years for the person who publishes classified information without authorization.
LH: Describe the political and social climate in Slovenia these days, particularly with Far-Right Nationalist parties as well as the rise of extremist groups, like neo-Nazis.
AD: Presently we don't have a nationalist party in the parliament. Right wing nationalists do not have a formal political party although I have written about them trying to form one in 2012. To my knowledge nothing came out of it. Many of the members of B&H are a part of football fan clubs and cause mayhem at football stadiums. The centers of B&H are the towns of Žiri and Domžale. During the 1990s, neo-Nazis and skinheads used to get into overt fights with antifascist groups.
LH: Which article (s) got you in the most "hot water," so to speak, with Slovenian authorities?
AD: I am not sure I understand. Articles other than the ones described here? I have never had problems before with the Slovenian authorities because of my articles. However, recently, I was questioned regarding charges filed against me by a state institution for alleged defamation, which is criminalized in Slovenia under article 160 of the Criminal Code. I cannot comment further.
LH: Explain the series of events in which you were summoned by the criminal police for questioning leading up to your indictment.
AD: Not much to explain. They first came to my mother's house even though I have an official temporary address elsewhere (my official permanent address is the same as my mother's)... My mother freaked out, called me and said that the criminal police were at the door. I told her to put them on the phone and told them off for scaring her. I asked why they didn't come to my official temporary address. Then they came to my house and handed me the formal invitation for questioning. I went to the questioning with my lawyer.
LH: Why do you feel this is retaliation for your investigative journalism?
AD: Why? I think it should be clear by now. 1) I published articles about ties between SDS and Neo-Nazis and 2) Delo had the courage to publish this during an election campaign as we were convinced this information was of definite public interest... We are still convinced it is and was in the public interest. Furthermore, according to the information available, the process against me was directed by people with clear connections with SDS. This party is famous for retaliating against journalists or other people who cause them trouble. For example, [former Prime Minister] Janša is also suing a Finnish journalist for criminal defamation because he accused him and his party of accepting bribes from Patria, a Finnish Arms company.
LH: What sort of legal representation do you have? Has the European journalism community or organizations, which advocate for a fair and open press, given you moral support for your legal efforts?
AD: My newspaper Delo is definitely standing behind me and my colleagues are digging further into the story regarding the court which received the indictment. [That being said], the response by other members of the Slovenian media has been less proactive than one might have expected. That being said, the Slovene Association of Journalists issued a statement protesting my indictment and called for the State Prosecutor to stop going after me. Also, various online media outlets in Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro hav written about my case [in late February], as did Hate Speech International. The Organized Crime and Corruption and Reporting Project (OCCRP) is supporting me as well. I am very grateful for all the support I have been getting. Together we are stronger.
LH: How would you describe the extent of press censorship in Slovenia in the past decade?
AD: The worst cases of censorship after independence from Yugoslavia happened between 2005 and 2007, under Janša's 1st term. During this time, Delo became a sort of political pawn and former Prime Minister Janša's cadres took charge of the executive as well as editorial authority in the company. The national radio and television had also fallen prey... to censorship... In the past two years or so, we have seen a substantial increase in criminal defamation charges against journalists filed by public authorities, politicians, bankers and [high profile] businessmen. These sorts of charges are really becoming the prime tool for exerting pressure on journalists and media companies. [That being said], I think the last time Slovenian Intelligence Agency filed charges against a journalist was probably around 2000.
LH: Why should civic-minded people worldwide be concerned & interested with your case?
AD: In the middle of democratic Europe, a journalist is being persecuted by the Intelligence Agency and State Prosecution [just] for doing her job and for uncovering the worrying connections between Neo-Nazis and the biggest right wing political party. [I know that] this was in the public interest! In the context of the Far-Right parties gaining strength in Greece, Hungary, and elsewhere in Europe, this should worry anyone with a clear conscience.