Higher Court upholds suspended sentence for Janša over insulting tweet

Ljubljana – The Celje Higher Court upheld on Tuesday a three-month suspended prison sentence with one year probation against outgoing Prime Minister Janez Janša for calling two journalists “washed up prostitutes” in a 2016 tweet. The verdict is final, but Janša’s lawyer has announced a point of law appeal at the Supreme Court.

The decision, reached one day before the case would become statute barred, confirms the February ruling of the Celje District Court in a retrial held upon a successful appeal by Janša, who was not in court today.

Janša, the leader of the largest opposition party at the time, tweeted in March 2016: “The FB page of the public house is offering cheap services by washed up prostitutes Eugenija C. and Mojca P.Š. One for 30 euros, the other for 35. #PimpMilan”.

TV Slovenija reporters Mojca Šetinc Pašek and Eugenija Carl each responded by filing defamation lawsuits, both criminal and civil.

Following an appeals conundrum – Janša for instance filed the final appeal on the last possible date – and other administrative delays, including reportedly over repeated failed attempts by the court to serve Janša, the case looked on track to becoming statute barred.

In a turn of events after it seemed that Janša had not been served with a summons, the Celje Higher Court decided to announce a verdict today upon the insistence of Janša’s lawyer Franci Matoz that his client had been acquainted with the matter.

The judge, Andrej Pavlina, said today that, Janša, who must also pay the court fees, tweeted a crude and sexist statement that was political. Thus the court rejected the appeal against the ruling of the lower court and made the verdict final.

Matoz however insisted today that the District Court had violated the penal code and that its panel of judges had not been impartial. He argued the tweet in question did not make it possible to conclude which reporters were being referred to specifically.

Matoz, who moreover disagreed with the view of the Higher Court that tweet was offensive, also said that reports Janša was not picking up his mail and delaying proceedings had been fake news.

“The first annulment was due to a clear irregularity in the empanelling of the jury, which prolonged the case for two years. We did not agree with the case becoming statute barred, that was never our intention. We wanted a decision on the merits and now we will take the case to the Supreme Court … I am confident we will succeed in the end,” he said.

Judge Zinka Strašek meanwhile explained that several attempts had been made to serve Janša with the summons for the appeal hearing via a detective, but without success.

Therefore, the judges first adopted a decision today not to hold the session. When Matoz said he had personally informed Janša that today’s appeal session would take place, the judges reversed the original decision and held the appeal session anyway, she added.

Šetinc Pašek, who has since become an MP, was pleased today that the High Court was able to bring the case to a conclusion in a very short time. She had expected Janša to be found guilty, saying the tweet had been disgusting, ugly and insulting. “Such an offensive tweet cannot be tolerated in our society,” she added.

The Supreme Court has already adopted decisions in this case as regards the civil lawsuits in which the Velenje Local Court as well as the Celje Higher Court ordered Janša to pay EUR 6,000 in damages to Šetinc and Carl.

Ruling separately and with slightly different panels, it upheld in 2020 Janša’s appeal when Šetinc is concerned, while rejecting it in 2021 in Carl’s case.