“Now, in times of freedom, you have to be careful what you say, as you can be imprisoned for even one wrong word,” is the famous line from the film “Moj ata, socialistični kulak” – My Dad, the Socialist Kulak. And life often imitates art. Like the Russian paid “siloviki” in 1945, the Freedom Movement coalition flew in on the wings of a paid-for “victory,” reimagining freedom in the sense of what it was after the World War. The Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda) has declared war on free speech and dissident media that are not on the Party line. The remnants of the right-wing media are on the front line of the government’s terror against freedom of the press and of expression in general. This time, the hijacked state, with its powerful apparatus, has called to account the editor-in-chief of the Nova24TV web portal, Marko Puš.
It is clear that the Freedom Movement coalition has appointed people who are loyal to them within the police, and now they can use the repressive body as their own tool for control, which is extremely convenient for a political option that aspires to autocracy. Just as Putin is intimidating Russia’s independent media by interrogating the journalists and editors of Novaya Gazeta and Meduza, so the Slovenian authorities are targeting our web portal – one of the last independent media outlets in the country.
The editor-in-chief of the Nova24TV web portal, Marko Puš, is being summoned to a police station for questioning on suspicion of the offence of insulting an official, Mitja Gregorc (a police officer). As the editor-in-chief of the web portal, Puš is being accused of having allowed the publication of an article entitled: “Anonymous Letter From The Police: If You Are A Friend Of Lindav, Anything Is Possible,” which was published on the 29th of June 2022.
An anonymous letter and old articles
It is worth pointing out that Nova24TV was one of the rare media outlets that dared to publish an anonymous letter revealing alleged shocking links from the top of the Slovenian police, which is now headed by Director-General Boštjan Lindav. He allegedly intended to “pardon” Mitja Gregorc, a police trade unionist who, according to the anonymous letter, is a controversial figure in many respects and who is even described by the author of the letter as a “criminal,” whom Lindav allegedly favours to the extent that he “transferred him from Tacen to a much higher position in the police, where he would serve as a ‘top’ professional with high integrity.”
In addition to the anonymous letter, our web portal also referred to an article that was published 12 years ago in the newspaper Finance, which reveals that the aforementioned Gregorc was a criminal investigator in the morning and a debt collector in the afternoon but did not even obtain the consent of the General Police Directorate for his “afternoon work.” At some point, he allegedly also started making alcoholic beverages in the afternoon. The letter states that Gregorc “was dismissed from his job for using his official car off-duty for private matters. He went for questioning at a special department of the prosecutor’s office (suspicion of abuse of official position) because he wanted to influence the decision of a criminal investigator at the Ljubljana Police Directorate in connection with his illegal construction. The criminal investigator then complained, and Mitja Gregorc received a warning before his dismissal.”
He then allegedly broke the law again, and they were going to give him a regular notice of resignation, which they could not serve, because Gregorc had gone on sick leave with his doctor’s approval, who allowed him to change his location and travel around, and so he was never at the location to be served. The sender of the anonymous letter also accused Gregorc of sexually harassing practically everyone at the National Bureau of Investigation, as his office was supposedly decorated with a calendar full of naked women, and he was also accused of hiking to Šmarna gora during working hours.
The anonymous letter also refers to the reporting of the shows 24ur and Tarča
The anonymous letter, which also refers to the reporting of the television shows 24ur and Tarča, claims that the same Gregorc was handed the investigation of purchasing masks and ventilators by Darko Muženič, and that Gregorc, as an investigator, allegedly leaked information to the media during the ongoing investigation, with a focus on Zdravko Počivalšek.
The real target here is not Nova24, but free journalism
As is evident from the article, our web portal did not wrongly accuse anyone of anythig but merely referred to several sources and newspaper articles that have already been published. Of course, the police “siloviki” will not interrogate the journalists of Finance, Pop TV or the show Tarča, as they are not the real “targets” of this witch hunt. The real target is not even the Nova24TV web portal but freedom of expression and the autonomy of the journalistic profession in general. For two years, we have been hearing about the repression of the media by the Janša government without a shred of evidence or even an indication that such a thing is really happening – and what is more, during the term of the Janša government, al the media prospered more than ever before, and nobody was afraid to write about the executive branch of the government and its politicians.
However, things will obviously be different during the times of “freedom.” Even the publication of an anonymous letter can be a trigger for the repressive authorities, as an outgrowth of the executive branch of power, to target the small, independent conservative media outlets and systematically intimidate them, if not forcibly destroy them. Slovenia has never seen such Putinisation as we have seen under the Golob government. We are at a crossroads, just like Russia was in 2000. For now, we still have the choice of living in an autocracy or a democracy.
Five years from now, when the first Slovenian Anna Politkovskaya dies, it will already be too late. Take our word for it – you do not want to live in a country where the media dare not criticise the police, the judiciary and the executive branch of government. In such a country, your safety depends solely on the whims and goodwill of the authorities. That is why, in the service of truth, we will continue to publish things that others do not dare to publish. That is why we appreciate your help in the fight for media freedom, and we urge you to continue to help us create an oasis of media freedom that is critical of the authorities.