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Blaž Zgaga

(Slovenia; JiR in 2017)

Blaž Zgaga (Photo: Tomislav Čuveljak) Blaž Zgaga (Photo: Tomislav Čuveljak)

„I am freelance investigative journalist based in Slovenia, who writes for the Croatian weekly magazine Nacional and works with European Investigative Collaborations (EIC). After I disclosed that the most powerful Slovene politicians were personally involved in arms smuggling to the then Yugoslav battlefields during the UN arms embargo in the 1990s, real repercussions started. It was like Zersetzung – the psychological warfare techniques used by the Stasi to suppress dissents in the German Democratic Republic – which Slovene security service learned from their then ideological friends during the Cold War. There were face-to-face death threats by former senior intelligence officers, widespread smear campaigns against me, attempts and successes in infiltration of my personal circle of people close to me, death threats to close friends and their families. They declared me as “persona non grata” in the Slovene media which are owned by politically connected oligarchs and that meant it was no longer possible for me to get any income from journalism in Slovenia. These are only few of consequences I faced because of my award-winning reporting on topics of the highest public interest in Slovenia, an EU member country. Of course, these activities could create a huge stress on anybody. The ECPMF’s Journalist-in-Residence programme thus came at ideally the right time for me to get a refuge and rest from these events. For the first time in years I was able to live a normal life in Leipzig, meet new friends, and start my successful collaboration with Croatian magazine Nacional and European Investigative Collaborations (EIC). During my stay I also established contacts with other German organisations which defend freedom of the press and, for example, became one of the plaintiffs of the constitutional complaint against the BND (secret service surveillance) law at the German Constitutional Court. My residence in Leipzig in a protected environment allowed me to rest from those heavy pressures, re-charge my batteries and finally reorient my journalistic career. I can still work as an investigative journalist, despite being “persona non grata” in the media of my home country. I am writing in foreign languages for foreign audiences today, however I am able to continue my journalistic work with great success, and I also report about Slovene politicians and other powerful individuals. These stories are mostly ignored by the mainstream politically-controlled Slovene media, but as they are published in the neighbouring country of Croatia they still reach at least some parts of Slovene audience. All this would probably not have happened if I had not become a resident of the beautiful city of Leipzig in the ECPMF Journalist-in-Residence programme.”

JiR-Alumni