By: Kavarna Hayek
If there were any doubts left before, now it is quite clear to everyone that the left-wing parliamentary majority will do literally anything to not only discredit the right-wing opposition but to try to materially destroy and silence the right-wing (private) media outlets as well. This is the only way we can interpret the letter from the main office of the National Assembly to all municipal councils and mayors of municipalities and towns that was recently published by the Nova24TV web portal. In it, Mojca Pašek Šetinc (as the Chairwoman of the Commission of Inquiry for determining the political responsibility of holders of public office with regard to the alleged illegal financing of political parties and party political propaganda in the media before and during the 2022 elections to the National Assembly with financial resources from state-owned enterprises, state institutions and foreign entities) demands from local authorities, under threat of seizure, all business documentation related to advertising in almost thirty media outlets that are not in favour of the left (including the Nova24TV television and web portal, and Nova obzorja, which publishes the weekly magazine Demokracija).
The left has repeatedly used the institution of parliamentary inquiry to sully its political and ideological opponents, whether it be media with a conservative worldview or individuals, but it has not uncovered anything shocking, least of all that any of the political parties have illegally financed themselves (or did it with the support of the media that support the parties in question). This time, they are clearly going all out – they think that they will at least find a grain of peas under the twenty mattresses and twenty featherbeds. In doing so, Pašek Šetinc has resorted to the most clandestine and insidious of investigative methods – the so-called “fishing.” What she is asking for is a textbook example of this.
Fishing means, simply put, that investigators who have no (material) evidence of an alleged crime (they only have a suspicion, or so they think) resort to a “blind search,” asking for information, data and documents that are not relevant or not the subject of the investigation at all. It is a very broad “hunt for information” that could potentially provide them with evidence of a crime. Such information gathering constitutes a serious interference with fundamental human rights. The Slovenian courts have also repeatedly stressed that fishing or blind searches are “absolutely not allowed.”
Some say that if you have done nothing wrong, you have nothing to fear, not even a full-scale investigation. Which is not true. According to this logic, the state can install cameras in your apartment and watch you all the time; you have nothing to fear anyway. Would you allow that? Would you agree to that? Would you consider it normal for the police (who, on the basis of a denunciation from a neighbour who envies you your new car) to demand all financial transactions from you, your family members, and those whom they feel may have helped you buy the car?
We have already seen political fishing in Slovenia in the past, with Andrej Šircelj and the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) being the victims of it. When investigating Šircelj on suspicion of aiding and abusing his position or trust in economic activity, the National Bureau of Investigation’s investigators wanted to seize the entire SDS server, not just the data relating to the MP. The charges against Šircelj were later dropped, and we can only speculate about why the police would need the entire SDS server. A similar thing is now happening with the Commission of Inquiry in question. Pašek Šetinc is demanding information from all (!) municipalities about business cooperation with right-wing media. She probably thinks that they will surely manage to find something. As for Nova obzorja, where I was the director between April 2018 and June 2022, I can already tell you that they will not find anything. They could also look at the Erar web application for the spending of public money, where all the data is collected, and target the investigation at specific municipalities. That might still be acceptable, although it is clear that it is all politically and ideologically motivated. To make such broad demands of municipalities is certainly an abuse of the institution of the Commission of Inquiry and of the Commission of Inquiry itself. And not only that. The short deadline for the municipalities to comply with the request of Pašek Šetinc shows that there are grounds for suspecting that the data obtained before the local elections will be used for political and ideological showdowns with right-wing mayoral candidates in the municipalities and townships. This may be the first reason why Mojca Pašek Šetinc should be dismissed.
This is an attack on the right-wing media
Previous Commissions of Inquiry have already been very broad; for example, banks have had to disclose all financial transactions of a company, not just certain transactions with certain companies and individuals. That was also fishing. This time it is something else. The competition from the right-wing media will be able to access sensitive business information from private companies without much effort, thanks to the Commission of Inquiry, which is fishing without a clear direction. This can be defined as the Commission of Inquiry’s Chairwoman Pašek Šetinc, helping economic profiteering. And that is the second reason why she should resign as Chair of the Commission.
It is not only that Mojca Pašek Šetinc was often criticised by the right-wing media when she was still working for the national media outlet Radio-Television Slovenia and has now embarked on a path of revenge as the Chairwoman of the Commission, it is also about her colleague at the Commission, Tomaž Modic, who worked at the “Necenzurirano.si” (“Uncensored”) web portal, owned by Martin Odlazek’s media empire. That is to say, a direct market competitor of the right-wing media. Modic will thus have access (in the context of a wide-ranging investigation) to the very guts of the business operations of competing private companies and will be able to get to know most of the sensitive information (for any company) and data that companies usually classify as top secret.
Of course, if anyone believes that Pašek Šetinc is not motivated by her want for revenge against Nova24TV and hatred of the right in general and that Modic will not exploit the data and pass it on to third parties, they are entitled to think so. I say that I do not believe in their professionalism, and I do not trust their “objectivity.” Modic’s writing on the “Necenzurirano.si” web portal (usually in the company of Primož Cirman and Vesna Vuković) about the Demokracija magazine and the Nova obzorja company is proof enough for me of his unprofessionalism and manipulativeness. I say this with certainty, having been editor of Demokracija and director of Nova obzorja. And both of them are deeply involved in these matters (as the critics and the targets of criticism).
Pašek Šetinc should not even be on the Commission of Inquiry, much less Modic, with the right to see the documents of the Commission of Inquiry. And since the left-wing parliamentary majority will not take this into account (at least they have not done so thus far), I can safely write that the inquiry is not about fact-finding but about political persecution of ideological adversaries (enemies). Pašek Šetinc and Modic’s roles will put them at the heart of the deep state’s cavalry.