Attacks on the Press 2002: Slovenia

Press freedom is generally respected in Slovenia, but journalists investigating sensitive issues continue to face occasional intimidation or pressure in retaliation for their coverage.

Police have made no progress in their investigation of a brutal, February 2001 attack on Miro Petek, a journalist for Vecer, Slovenia’s second-largest daily. Petek sustained severe skull fractures after two unknown assailants beat him outside his home in the small town of Mezica in northern Slovenia. He spent five months recovering from the near fatal assault. In March 2002, the Slovenian government created a parliamentary commission to investigate the case.

According to local sources and press reports, the attack stemmed from either Petek’s coverage of financial malfeasance allegedly committed by millionaire businessman Janko Zakrsnik, or from the journalist’s investigation of corruption in the trucking industry. Zakrsnik has denied any involvement in Petek’s attack and has filed civil lawsuits seeking monetary damages from six journalists who have linked him to it.

Meanwhile, the Prosecutor’s Office said it is preparing a new case against Blaz Zgaga, an investigative journalist with Vecer who was cleared in January 2002 of charges of revealing military secrets. Zgaga had been charged in October 2000 after publishing a June 2000 article that questioned the legality of a joint Slovenian-U.S. intelligence operation conducted during the 1999 NATO war against Yugoslavia.

The new case against Zgaga alleges that his article harmed Slovenia’s national security by causing the termination of intelligence sharing and training programs with NATO and the United States. The Slovenian government is very sensitive about relations with the West because of the country’s pending applications for NATO and European Union membership. Zgaga refused to answer questions about the case at a court hearing held on June 26 and is still waiting to hear if the prosecutor will convene a trial.