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Exactly 20 years ago, there was an assassination attempt on the then Večer journalist Miro Petek. This has so far been the only real violence against journalists in Slovenia

Tonight marks 20 years since the attack on the then Večer journalist Miro Petek.

The Slovenian (left) media mainstream accuses the center-right government of curtailing journalistic freedom, attacking journalists, and endangering their lives. They inform the international public and organisations about this, although none of it is true, as everyone is guaranteed freedom of expression, and journalists are safe under the government of Janez Janša. The truth is that the only Slovenian journalist who has almost paid for his journalistic mission and work with his life is the conservative Miro Petek. Because of his investigative journalism, he was attacked and nearly killed twenty years ago (under the rule of Janez Drnovšek’s Liberal Democracy). This is his story.

On February 28th, 2001, on a cold night when a few centimetres of snow fell, members of a paid criminal underworld met him in front of a garage in his backyard and attacked him with a baseball bat. Petek laid unconscious in a big puddle of blood and later barely survived, he had more than 20 fractures on his head, and the attack left permanent health consequences.

As a correspondent for one of the Slovenian dailies, Petek was exposing the economic crime of the transitional left and the “red directors” (directors who had already become so under the totalitarian communist regime) after independence. This was a crime of great proportions. He published a series of journalistic articles about a local rich man who became rich in strange circumstances, and in one of his journalistic stories he also revealed in detail the money laundering of one of the richest Slovenes at the time, Janko Zakeršnik, in the state bank Nova KBM. Interestingly, this bank was also the largest owner of the daily in which Petek revealed these criminal stories at the time. When Petek survived this attack, Zakeršnik sued the journalist for all the records he had published about him as an entrepreneur. Petek only reached justice in the Constitutional Court, all previous legal instances have sentenced him to pay compensation for alleged interference with private life. Miro Petek was also the recipient of two central Slovenian journalism awards, the Slovenian Journalists’ Association Award and the Jurčič Award, and the IFJ, the International Federation of Journalists, had conducted an independent investigation into Petek’s case.

The police arrested and imprisoned a group of people who were preparing the murder of Miro Petek, the case also came to court with an indictment, where the accused were acquitted after a long court procedure and received more than 600 thousand euros in compensation from the state. Petek thus also fell victim to the complete incompetence of a state that is unable to provide its citizens with legal and physical security. In the trial itself, which was accompanied by many upheavals, the then ruling left post-communist political elite left its mark, seeking to protect their people in various ways, that is, the perpetrators of the murder of journalist Miro Petek. In the case of Petek, the connection between politics, the judiciary, the Slovene tycoon elite, and also the criminal underworld was shown, and a part of Slovene journalists also joined the defence and support of the criminal-economic underworld with their writing.

The Slovenian police, the prosecution, and the judiciary did not prosecute the perpetrators of the attack on Miro Petek, although it was more or less known in Petek’s media records and later in other media analyses who was behind the attack, and this was known to the police and the prosecution. The law enforcement authorities saw the key to the perpetrators in the attackers, who the court acquitted, so the second phase of resolving this case did not occur. Additionally, law enforcement authorities did not investigate the case of money laundering in the state bank, as Petek wrote. With such ignorance of the state to prosecute crime, a message was sent that such crimes are not prosecuted and that no one will be convicted. Decades later, billions of euros of Iranian money of dubious origin were laundered at the state-owned and largest Slovenian bank, Nova ljubljanska banka, also without any consequences for those involved.

After the attack on the then journalist Miro Petek in Slovenia there were no physical attacks on the journalist. The internationalisation of so-called threats due to a post on social networks of some Slovenian journalists is merely seeking international attention and justifying their own journalistic impotence of those journalists who were and still are mere relics of the left transitional policy and capital of the post-communist tycoon elite.

Janja Strah

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