As you can imagine, Slovene media drooled over the supposed attempt at PM Borut Pahor’s life. Pengovsky already explained why in his opinion the incident did not even come close to an assassination attempt. But since the four police officers who grabbed the deranged train passenger carrying bombs were awarded medals for bravery today, the media frenzy seems justifiable. After all, it is not every day that four uniformed officers prevent a serious bloodbath.
As a result, state television invited all four decorated cops to the studio, where they were feeling ill at ease, mostly answering in short sentences thus giving the host, Tomaž Bratož, an appropriately hard time. To give him credit, about a third of Bratož’s questions actually were relevant. But when he turned his attention to the policeman, who actually prevented the passenger to detonate the hand grenade, Bratoš swithced from an interview to a re-enactment, and produced a dummy hand-grenade, asking the police officer to repeat the moves.
An pengovsky went: What. The. Fuck!?!?!
A hand grenade in live studio? What’s next? A replica of an AK-47 when interviewing Slovene soldiers? An empty Uzi when doing a feature on mafia? A fucking tomahawk missile on the anniversary of the war in Iraq? Bringing weapons – even fake ones – on live television and having them handled by an untrained individual sends a seriously wrong message. If a twat from state television can juggle a hand grenade in a studio, what’s to stop a kid to do the same tomorrow afternoon during school recess? Just that this kid won’t know the difference between a dud and a live grenade, because they look the same.
Tomaž Bratoš, host of “Odmevi”, holding a replica of a hand grenade (stills: RTVSLO)
What Bratož did was unprofessional, irresponsible and dangerous. If his editor were any good, he’d have him reprimanded on the spot. But given this particular editor, the hand grenade in the studio could as well have been his idea. Because it was almost certainly his idea to have another go at Ultra affair. Not because there’d be any new developments, but because the media watchdog fined RTVSLO for failing to publish a correction (a presentation of opposing viewpoints), which Ultra demanded in accordance with the Law on Media.
To cut a long story short: when the story broke out, RTVSLO (specifically: journalist Matej Hlebš) claimed that Ultra had taken out 21 million euros of unsecured loans. Ultra denied that, provided details on its loans and their collaterals and allowed its bank, Nova Ljubljanska Banka (NLB), to divulge details as it sees fit. In essence it revoked its “banker-customer privilege”. However, NLB chose not to divulge any details. Which shouldn’t come as a surprise, actually, since any bank worthy of its name will not divulge details of its clients, unless ordered to do so by a court of law. But Hlebš and his editor Rajko Gerič (the very same who allowed a hand grenade in the studio) used this insignificant piece of information – the fact that the state had fined its own television (which means that the fine will be footed by taxpayers anyhow) – to launch another viscious tirade against minister Gregor Golobič and company Ultra, where Hlebš even took Gerič’s statement and put it into the piece. Basically, Rajko Gerič OK’d and aired a piece which featured himself as one of the protagonists (the other being journalist Hlebš personally).
Editor of news programming Rajko Gerič (left) giving a statement to journalist Matej Hlebš (right) (stills: RTVSLO)
This latest piece of journalistic bravado put together by Hlebš and more than apparently supervised by Gerič added nothing new to the question of whether minister Golobič acted wrongly or how wrongly did he act. This was an ad hominem attack for no other reason than the fact that the company Gregor Golobič owns a small share in, demanded a correction, was denied and reported this to the Media Inspectorate, which dully fined the state television (not the editor or the journalist personally). Gerič even went as far as to say that RTVSLO will not be gagged and that they “will not rest until NLB divulges information which will show that Ultra was not privileged in getting the loans, but was granted them just as any other citizen would be.”
Careful observers will of course note that he completely fails to mention the original allegation of 21 million euros of unsecured loans. Even more, said that there are 6 million euros of loans which “are not fully explained”, but that did not stop Hlebš from implying that the only reason RTVSLO was fined is because government culture portfoilo (which includes Media Inspectorate) is held by Majda Širca, member of party Zares, which just happens to be led by Gregor Golobič. An allegation which might even hold up with some conspiracy theorists, if it weren’t for the fact that Head Inspector Aleksander Vidmar was appointed to the post in mid 2005 – well within the term of the previous government. Thus – if the decision on fining RTVSLO would really be political, one would expect the inspectorate not to fine the institution. But it seems that the decision to fine the state television was taken not on political but on legal ground – which is what both Gerič and Hlebš deliberately ignore. And just to top it off, the piece concludes by Hlebš saying that RTVSLO will (naturally) appeal the fine, meaning that the whole thing is far from over. But it was too good an opportunity not to say anything new to miss. Which is the essence of bad journalism.
But hey – this is what we’ve come to. Idiots who bring hand grenades to the studio and their brethren who think they’ve got everybody by the balls, even though they’re quoting compromised documents.