A temporary court injunction has been slapped on Slovene daily newspaper Dnevnik, preventing it from reporting on an alleged corruption controversy. The newspaper faces heavy financial penalties if it breaches the vaguely worded court order.
The injunction, imposed on 6 August, relates to articles printed in Dnevnik on 29 July in which the newspaper cited an Italian newspaper and other web-based material suggesting the involvement in corruption of an Italian businessman.
Dnevnik continued to report on the issue the following day, prompting lawyers to file a civil libel action against the paper on 30 July, claiming that the newspaper had damaged the businessman’s reputation.
After 30 July, Dnevnik reportedly stopped publishing original material on the issue, limiting its reporting of it to one mention in an editorial column, and the publication on its website of two articles issued by the Slovenian Press Agency.
Less than a week later, on 6 August, Dnevnik received notice of the libel action from Ljubljana District Court, as well as an order banning the newspaper from making any further “indications, accusations, allusions or other similar publications or interventions.”
The penalty for breaching the injunction is an automatic 50,000 Euro fine – which increases, with each further breach, to a maximum of 500,000 Euros.
“This presents a significant financial threat to us,” Ali Zerdin, editor-in-chief of Dnevnik, told IPI. “The information we have is of huge importance for the Slovenian public, but unfortunately we will have to wait before publishing this information for a certain time.”
Press freedom has been a concern in recent years in Slovenia, with journalists claiming that government pressure has been felt in newsrooms, and with new legislation expanding the scope of criminal defamation in the country at a time when many European governments are looking to remove such laws.
At the end of July, Slovenia charged a Finnish journalist, Magnus Berglund, with two counts of criminal defamation in connection to a documentary produced by Berglund linking the former Prime Minister, Janez Jansa, to an alleged arms-deal scandal.
The courts charged Berglund, who now faces up to six months in a Slovene jail, at the request of the lawyer representing Jansa in the matter. That lawyer is also reportedly representing the businessman in his case against Dnevnik. Berglund is not currently in Slovenia.
“While I make no comment on the facts of the case, I am extremely worried that the imposition of a blanket injunction for the duration of the court case leaves the plaintiff with no incentive to pursue the case,” said IPI Director David Dadge. “In effect it could silence the media on this matter for years.”