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Slovenian ex-PM loses libel appeal against Yle

Former Slovenian Prime Minister Janesz Jansa’s libel claims against national broadcaster Yle were dismissed in a Slovenian court of appeal Tuesday. The court also ordered Jansa to reimburse Yle for costs incurred during the legal proceedings – some 15,000 euros.

Janez Janša
Janez Jansa valokuvattuna maaliskuussa 2013. Image: Julien Warnand / EPA

Tuesday’s ruling was the latest phase in a long-running campaign by the former Slovenian premier to seek compensation from Yle for allegedly slandering his name in its investigative journalism series MOT. Jansa still has the right to seek permission to appeal the latest verdict in the country's highest court.

Back in 2008, MOT reported that the Finnish defence contractor Patria had allegedly paid bribes totaling 21 million euros to Slovenian Defence Ministry officials as well as then-PM Jansa to secure arms contracts.

In 2011 a civil trial began in Slovenia in which Jansa demanded 1.5 million euros from Yle as compensation for libel. He also called on the broadcaster to roll back the statements about his alleged bribe-taking made in the programme.

First round to Jansa

At the time the lower court ruled in Jansa’s favour, however it reduced the award for damages to 15,000 euros. Yle was also called on to recant the claims made about Jansa and to pay his legal costs.

However both sides appealed the verdict and in December 2012 a higher court repealed the decision of the lower court, saying that it had poor justification and returned it to the civil court for a new hearing.

The new hearing found that there was no basis to Jansa’s claims and overturned the case. Jansa then took the decision to a court of appeal, which decided in Yle’s favour Tuesday.

Patria in other bribery cases

In 2013 a Slovenian court sentenced the ex-PM to two years in prison for accepting bribes from the Finnish defence firm – a decision which he also appealed.

Jansa and four other government officials were accused of accepting money from Patria in exchange for defence contracts worth nearly 280 million euros. The alleged graft first came to light in 2008 in Yle's MOT programme.

The deal involved a 2006 contract for more than a hundred armoured personnel carriers, Slovenia's largest defence procurement at the time. Jansa served as defence minister in the 1990s and as premier in 2004-08 and 2012-13.

Patria executives had been previously been convicted of bribery in Egypt and accused of similar acts in Croatia.

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