Nova24TV English

Slovenian News In ENGLISH

Veselinovič’s Ill-Treatment Of Meško Is Considered One Of The Roughest And Most Brutal Political Showdowns With Journalists In Democratic Slovenia

“It is a well-known fact that Borut Meško was let go as a result of bullying, while he was on sick leave due to a serious illness. He later died,” the President of the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS), Janez Janša, who is being sued for defamation by the former Director of the Slovenian Press Agency, Bojan Veselinović, told the court in Celje last week at a hearing. The fact that Veselinovič was pressuring and bullying Mešek and fired him while he was on sick leave has been pointed out by many people in the last few years – including Uroš Urbanija, Igor Krišnar and Nenad Glücks, who also pointed out that Veselinovič had certainly influenced the development of Meško’s disease with his long-lasting bullying. 

In March of next year, Janez Janša will go on trial in the District Court in Celje for an allegedly offensive tweet in which he wrote last May: “It is unbelievable for the European Union in the 21st century that a collaborator in the murder of a journalist still runs the Slovenian Press Agency and even gets paid 8,500 euros a month to do it. Which is more than the President of the Republic.” With his statement, he allegedly insulted the then-Director of the Slovenian Press Agency, Bojan Veselinovič, by accusing him of being an accomplice in the death of journalist Bojan Meško. “It is clear from the above that Veselinovič used all possible forms of bullying and pressure on me, he did not choose the means to achieve his goal, but was ready to do everything to make me ‘voluntarily’ leave the post of the editor-in-chief of the Slovenian Press Agency,” Meško wrote once, who lost his life 12 years ago, due to the consequences of a cruel illness.

We can understand the same message from Veselinovič’s statement for the media from the 26th of May 2009: “And if Borut Meško considers warnings to do his work diligently to be pressure, then he can expect more pressure to come.” He added to his statement that if the Association of Journalists and Publicists (Združenje novinarjev in publicistov) does not understand that it is, in fact, advocating for the curtailment of editorial autonomy. At the time, the Association of Journalists and Publicists repeatedly publicly protested and demanded that the government of Borut Pahor, which had appointed Veselinovič, dismiss him because of his (also) politically motivated pressures. That did not happen, but the government coalition, following the proposal of Minister Majda Širca of the Zares party, even adopted a law on the Slovenian Press Agency, which further cemented Veselinovič’s position.

And since Meško refused to comply, Veselinovič dismissed him from his position as editor-in-chief in November 2009. At the time of his dismissal, Meško was undergoing examinations at the Institute of Oncology, where he learned that his serious illness had returned. He had to undergo treatment and was left without the necessary means for a decent life. He filed a lawsuit against the Slovenian Press Agency to the Labour and Social Court but did not live long enough to see the outcome of the lawsuit as he had died earlier. After his death, a settlement was reached in court, whereby the Slovenian Press Agency had to pay Meško’s family the amount that Meško would have received if Veselinović had not fired him. According to the Association of Journalists and Publicists, Veselinovič should have reimbursed the amount to the Slovenian Press Agency, thus paying from his own pocket, but that did not happen. “Borut, we will never forget you,” they wrote on the Association’s website – and you can read Meško’s final account (in Slovenian) here.

This is one of the worst cases of ill-treatment of a journalist in Slovenia’s history

Janša attended a pre-trial hearing at the Celje District Court last week and, upon his arrival, said: “As the Director of the Slovenian Press Agency, Veselinovič put pressure and bullied Meško and fired him while he was on sick leave. This is one of the worst cases of ill-treatment of a journalist, and the result is drastic, as Meško died shortly after his dismissal.” Janša stressed that he does not admit guilt for the crime he is being accused of, and according to the Dnevnik newspaper, he also told Judge Leoniga Jager that he does not really understand the lawsuit. “It is a well-known fact that Borut Meško was fired after being bullied, while he was on sick leave due to a serious illness. He later died,” he added.

Janša’s lawyer proposed that the court hear several witnesses, including Uroš Urbanija – who repeatedly recalled how Veselinovič tortured and then fired the sick-editor-in-chief Meško – as he himself witnessed the events as Meško’s deputy or editor of Slovenian Press Agency’s internal politics editorial office. “What happened with Meško is a really dirty story – to the extreme. Veselinovič should never have been a director of any state-owned company, let alone a media house. Listen – where have you ever seen a director throw a terminally ill man, who has been on sick leave for a long time beforehand, out on the street? Only a person corrupt to the extreme can do that,” he said in an interview with the Demokracija magazine.

In a letter addressed to the Director of the German Press Agency – dpa, Peter Kropsch, and secretary-general of the European Alliance of News Agencies, Alexandru Ion Giboi, Urbanija wrote: “The conflict, which ended utterly tragically, is considered to be one of the gravest and most brutal political attacks on journalism since Slovenia became a democratic state,” and went on to say: “We are also convinced that it must also be completely clear to you that this is not only about director Veselinovič dismissing the then-editor-in-chief, but sending him contract termination papers on his sickbed. This happened with the strong support of the Social Democrats (Socialni demokrati – SD), the ruling party at the time. What would other journalists think of such procedures? What was the message, not only for journalists of the Slovenian Press Agency who perhaps dared to think differently to the Director, but for all other journalists in the country as well?”

The lawyers could have explained that the private prosecutor knew about Meško’s illness at the time he was served with the papers for his extraordinary dismissal

“The dismissal for non-compliance with his work obligations was served to Borut Meško on the 3rd of November 2009, when his employer knew nothing about his serious illness. His illness was discovered in December 2009, and his lawyer informed us about it after a long delay – in May of 2010. We agreed to a settlement with his relatives purely for reasons of respect,” Veselinovič responded to the accusations, but Janša’s lawyer Franci Matoz also proposed to question two layers, Radovank Cerjak and Ivan Kukar, who would explain to the court that the private prosecutor knew about Meško’s illness and condition at the time he was served with the extraordinary dismissal. Veselinovič’s lawyer Gorazd Fišer had already filed Veselinovič’s pay slips for several months, proving that his salary was nowhere near as high as Janša claimed in his tweet, the newspaper Dnevnik also reported – which, after all, plays no important role in the story.

“Former editor-in-chief of the Slovenian Press Agency, Borut Meško, died of cancer, and Director of the Slovenian Press Agency, Bojan Veselinovič, contributed to the development of the disease with his long-lasting perverse bullying,” Nenad Glücks wrote in the magazine Reporter two years ago. In addition to him, Igor Kršinar, then-President of the Association of Journalists and Publicists, was convinced that this was political pressuring. Igor Mekina, a former editor at the Dnevnik newspaper, believed, according to the Delo newspaper, that journalists should stand together and resist pressure “regardless of whether we are considered left-wing or right-wing.” Editorial matters must remain editorial, and the management cannot get involved in this, he stressed. Matoz also proposed that all three of them be questioned.

Sara Bertoncelj

Share on social media