Former PM found guilty of defaming ex-STA director
Janez Janša, the leader of the opposition Democrats (SDS), has been found guilty of defamation for alleging when he served as Slovenia's prime minister in 2021 that the former director of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) Bojan Veselinovič acted as an accomplice in the murder of a journalist. The judgment is not yet final and Janša's lawyer has announced an appeal.
Veselinovič brought the defamation case over a statement that Janša posted about him on X, formerly known as Twitter reading: "It's unbelievable that in the EU of the 21st century an accomplice in the murder of a journalist is still running the STA and getting €8,500 a month. More than the president of the republic".
Janša posted this in 2021 when he was serving as prime minister, referring to the events of 2009 when Veselinovič served a dismissal notice to then STA editor-in-chief Borut Meško, who died of cancer in May 2010. The post came as the government held back funding of the STA for the public service it performs.
The judging panel of the Celje District Court found Janša guilty of defamation on 3 November, but did not uphold the plaintiff's motion to impose a suspended prison sentence on the offender.
Veselinovič's lawyer Gorazd Fišer argued that Janša was a "special repeat offender" who had already been convicted for defamation of journalists, which is why he proposed a suspended prison sentence that should be longer than the previous one.
Veselinovič filed for an indemnification claim for the sum of five average wages or €7,209, which he was to donate for flood relief in the Savinja Valley.
The court instead imposed a fine of €8,000 on Janša and ordered him to pay the court costs and defence expenses. The court told Veselinovič that he can seek indemnification in a civil litigation.
Judge Leonida Jager said that the position of prime minister is one of the highest in the country which is why they have to carefully choose their words, noting that Janša committed the offence deliberately and was aware of the consequences.
In a statement to the press after the judgement was delivered Janša claimed that the judgement was written in advance and that Slovenia's "independent judiciary" was preparing for early elections. His lawyer Franci Matoz announced an appeal.
Veselinovič said the outcome had been expected, arguing the key thing was that the court found Janša guilty.
Janša faced legal action for insulting comments made on X before. Last year a higher court upheld a suspended sentence against him for calling RTV Slovenija journalists "washed up prostitutes" in 2016. He also had to pay the Social Democrats (SD) over €10,000 in damages for claiming the party operated from a "stolen Jewish villa".
His posts also raised controversy abroad during his most recent stint as prime minister in 2020-2022.