Slovene police accused of trying to silence journalists investigating spying

June 16, 2000 (BBC) - A Slovene journalist has said that the police searched his office and his home after he published a report that intelligence agents had revealed the Slovene network of agents in Yugoslavia to the U.S. Defence Intelligence Agency. The chairman of the Association of Slovene Journalists said that the police searches were an attempt to silence investigative journalism. The following is the text of a report by Tomaz Celestina, including an interview with `Vecer' journalist Blaz Zgaga and a statement by Branko Maksimovic, head of Vecer's correspondent's office in Ljubljana, broadcast by Slovene radio on 14th June:

[Announcer] In the Saturday [10th June] issue of `Vecer', journalist Blaz Zgaga - in one of his reports on the activities of the Slovene military intelligence service [Intelligence Security Service - OVS] - also published a copy of a document about allegedly disputable actions by Slovene intelligence agents. The issue here relates to cooperation with the U.S. military intelligence service, the DIA. Our agents supposedly also revealed our agent network in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia [FRY] to the Americans. Tomaz Celestina reports.

[Reporter] This morning, at 0900 [0700 gmt] the criminal police went to two addresses: The office of the `Vecer' correspondent in Ljubljana and Blaz Zgaga's home address. They sealed Zgaga's office on the `Vecer' premises, and they attempted to search his home. According to Blaz Zgaga, the criminal police wished to get the document that had already been published in the Saturday issue of `Vecer'.

[Zgaga] After consulting my lawyer I handed over the document they were looking for.

[Reporter] And why would the document, which has already been published, be important?

[Zgaga] I do not know. The court decree, I think, expresses the suspicion that I, as a journalist, might have published a military secret. Second, on Friday I already noticed that - I suspect this - my apartment was secretly searched, and over the past few days I noticed that I have been followed and observed.

[Reporter] Branko Maksimovic, the head of `Vecer's Ljubljana correspondent's office, also condemned the event and added:

[Maksimovic] As the chairman of the Association of Slovene Journalists I would primarily like to say that, regardless of the intention and legal reasoning and grounds for this action of state force, I am shocked by it, that this is certainly an interference with journalistic freedom and an attempt to silence investigative journalism.

[Reporter] As regards the blame for these events, Maksimovic said:

[Maksimovic] Since there will probably be an attempt to blame this on the new ministers, I also have to say that - I do not know the intentions of [Defence Minister Janez] Jansa, who, already before, had announced that the wan song of journalism would come - he is definitely clean in this case because he has not done anything yet.

[Reporter] Branko Maksimovic added that we journalists must also act responsibly when we publish documents that are foisted on us, in this split society, first by one side and then by the other, and that he had warned Blaz Zgaga of this. However, the latter unfortunately did not manage to get a relevant statement by the Defence Ministry before the document was published. As regards the rumors that, because of this report, as well as some other reports, three U.S. intelligence agents have already been killed in the FRY and Hungary, Maksimovic said that these were directed and made-up rumours. As regards the aforementioned murders, Nika Dolinar, head of the defence minister's cabinet, said that the Ministry knew nothing about this.

Original article