As part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response, the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) is supporting journalists from the investigative news outlet Necenzurirano who have been targeted by multiple legal threats due to their reporting. ECPMF is providing up to €8,000 for lawyers’ fees to support the journalists.
Throughout August and September 2020, 13 vexatious lawsuits were filed against the journalists Primož Cirman, Vesna Vukovic and Tomaž Modic at Necenzurirano for their reporting on Rok Snežić, a tax expert and unofficial financial advisor to the Slovenian Prime Minister. The total number of lawsuits amounts to 39, which target the journalists’ joint reporting over Snežić’s business dealings over the past three years.
In response to the reporting, Snežić stated that untrue elements within the reporting have seriously damaged his honour and reputation. As a consequence, he filed criminal defamation complaints which can lead to a fine and up to one year in prison.
The Slovene Association of Journalists (DNS) published a statement, expressing concerns over the lawsuits against the journalists:
“The Journalists’ Association does not want to deny those who are affected by journalistic articles the legitimate right to defend their good name by all legal means, but at the same time we warn that legal remedies can be abused to exhaust journalists in time, financially and mentally. Particularly vulnerable are smaller media and journalist teams, which do not have the human and financial background to fight and defend their interests.”
In a statement, the International Press Institute, as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) called on Slovenian authorities and the judiciary to act, saying:
“In the coming weeks, we hope the court in Maribor will see these cases for what they are – a clear abuse of the judicial system to pressure a newly established media outlet – and ensure these vexatious lawsuits are thrown out. To protect journalists from the risks of similar litigation in the future, we urge the government to revive parliamentary discussions on the repeal of criminal defamation in Slovenia, as part of wider legislative reform of both the Criminal and Civil Code.”
By supporting the journalists with their legal fees, the MFRR aims to ensure that the journalists can mount a defence, participate in the proceedings and continue their important investigative reporting.