By Valerie Hopkins
Shortly after Norwegian ultra-nationalist Anders Breivik killed 77 people in a gun attack at a youth summer camp and a bombing in Oslo in 2011, Slovenian journalist Anuska Delic received a tip.
Prior to the killings, Breivik had been in contact with the Slovenian branch of Blood & Honour, a neo-Nazi group with affiliates in the U.S. and several European countries.
Delic, a reporter for Delo, Slovenia’s largest newspaper, was interested in learning more about Blood & Honour. In fact, she had recently been investigating whether a prominent activist in the youth wing of Slovenia’s center-right Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) was also the leader of the Slovenian branch of Blood & Honour.
After more than a month of investigating, Delic published a report ahead of the country’s 2011 parliamentary elections naming Dejan Prosen, who aided the campaigns of several SDS parliamentary candidates, as the leader of a local Blood & Honour affiliate. Her reporting also named two members of the country’s military as members of the neo-Nazi group.
In Slovenia, the reports caused a splash. A small, alpine country of 2 million wedged between Italy, Austria and Croatia, it mostly avoided the ethnic nationalism that led to wars in much of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Slovenia joined the European Union in 2004, and with per capita income of about $23,000, it is among the wealthiest nations from Europe’s former Communist bloc.
Yet the country’s economy has recently teetered on the brink of collapse, plagued by insolvent banks and rising government borrowing. As in other weak EU economies such as Greece and Hungary, economic instability and austerity has led to tumultuous politics.
Blood & Honour, with its roots in British white supremacist heavy metal festivals, is among a constellation of far-right groups that have capitalized on the discontent. And despite the attention to Delic’s 2011 article, the SDS managed to finish a close second in the 2011 elections. Its leader, Janez Jansa, became prime minister after forming a right-leaning coalition with several other parties.
Prosen has repeatedly denied connections to Blood & Honour, though he acknowledged membership in Tukaj Je Slovenija, or This is Slovenia, a separate group known for its far right rhetoric. Prosen declined to comment when reached by phone for this article. While Blood and Honor doesn’t have formal leadership, at least one other person active in the SDS party was also a senior member of Blood and Honour, according to Delic.
The new government did not forget about Delic’s reporting.
In June 2012, the Slovenian Security and Intelligence Agency, known as SOVA, filed charges of publishing state secrets against her with the district court as part of an effort to persuade Delic to reveal her sources. This led to a sealed indictment in April 2013, the details of which have not yet been made public. In addition, Delic was not informed of the indictment’s contents when she was summoned for questioning last year—despite facing up to three years in jail. Her case remains in limbo and no trial date has been scheduled.
“This is a political process,” Delic told the Global Journalist in an interview. “I think it has nothing to do with the judicial system. The charges were filed in June 2012, when the Slovenian Security and Intelligence Agency (SOVA) was headed by a director installed by SDS.”
Delic’s case has won support from groups including the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN) and the Organization for Security and Co-operation (OSCE) in Europe. That group’s media freedom representative, Dunia Mijatovic, wrote to Slovenia’s foreign minister on her behalf.
“In such cases national security needs to be properly weighed against the public interest, which must prevail,” Mijatovic wrote. “Journalists need to be free to report on issues of public interest free from fear of prosecution and potential imprisonment.”
Moreover, Delic says, an internal review about extremism within the government has vindicated her reporting about Prosen and the other SDS official. SOVA did not respond to the Global Journalist’s request for comment.
Delic has also received support from a surprising source: former SDS prime minister Jansa, who stepped down in March 2013 amidst corruption allegations. In 1988, Jansa himself was tried and convicted in a Yugoslav military tribunal for printing negative things about the Yugoslav National Army. He told The Economist that the indictment against her is “questionable.” Jansa blames the former head of SOVA during the 2011 campaign, Sebastjan Selan, who is also facing charges for leaking information. Selan did not reply to attempts to reach him by e-mail and by phone.
Delic vows to go to jail rather than identify her sources. Still, she’s been disappointed in the domestic coverage of her case. After her initial report, Delic was featured in a documentary about political extremism in Europe. Since her indictment, however, few Slovenian outlets have been covering the case, leaving her confused and upset.
“I’m disillusioned,” she says. “Even if it weren’t me, do we really want to live in a country…in a society where it is okay for an intelligence agency to prosecute a journalist for doing his or her job?”
Hopkins is a journalist based in Pristina, Kosovo who has been covering the Balkans since 2010. Her work has appeared in Foreign Policy, The Guardian, OpenDemocracy and various regional media outlets.