New RTV fiasco: Conflict of interest of the “expert” Rihard Knafelj, which they kept quiet about!

Rihard Knafelj. (Foto: Printscreen Tarča)

In an attempt to discredit the Government in the matter of procurement of protective equipment, the makers of the Thursday’s show Tarča (Target) chose Rihard Knafelj as a “witness” and presented him as an independent expert. However, this is a man who is very close to the LMŠ party and has also been involved in the promotion of a competitive supplier of medical equipment, Ram2, and he also owns his own business. Quite a few conflicts of interest, which were not highlighted by the show Tarča, which is just one of the many journalistic slip-ups of the national television.

Yesterday, the show Tarča prepared a continuation of the “investigative” story about the procurement of protective equipment during the deadly epidemic of the coronavirus COVID-19. The first part of the story had absolutely no attribute of investigative journalistic production, which we have revealed in recent days, but the second part of the story was somehow even worse.

This time, in addition to the senior staff member of the Agency for Commodity Reserves, Ivan Gale; Minister of the Economy Zdravko Počivalšek, Minister of Defence Matej Tonin, and Secretary Jelka Godec were also guests of the show. They had to withstand the biased hosting of the show by Erika Žnidaršič, who kept cutting them off and often did not let them finish. But despite all of this, they successfully responded to all of the complaints and came out as the moral winners.

RTV, is it hygienic to invite an advisor of the LMŠ party for the healthcare sector to be a guest on the show? The makers of the show wanted to cause as much damage as possible, so they decided to invite Rihard Knafelj, one of the three members of the informal panel of experts, selected to evaluate the offers for protective equipment, to be a guest on the show. Among other things, he said that the Siriusmed R30 ventilators, which were supplied by the GenePlanet company, are not suitable for the ventilation of patients requiring controlled ventilation due to the infection with the novel coronavirus, which is not true, of course. Both Minister Počivalšek, as well as Marko Bitenc, denied this claim.

As we have previously reported, Knafelj was an advisor of the LMŠ party for the field of healthcare in their election campaign. The same LMŠ, which, due to the irresponsible behavior of its president and former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, left warehouses of protective equipment empty for the new Government, and then even tried to make it impossible for them to procure the much-needed, life-saving equipment.

In addition to being close to LMŠ, Knafelj was also involved in the promotion of the competitive Ram2 medical equipment supplier, which is owned by his close friend, Aleš Hrastar, and he also has his own company, which presents a conflict of interest. It would be interesting to see further disclosures about his company’s earnings and whether he can deny that he has received any revenue from any of the ventilator providers he had evaluated as a member of the committee. All of this will be revealed in our future reports on the matter.

We would like to emphasize once again that the credibility of the show Tarča is very questionable, as they should have never invited someone with a conflict of interest to be a guest on the show. But this whole Tarča and Knafelj debacle clearly shows us one thing: this was a planned inquisition against the Government that had good intentions in the procurement of protective equipment during the most difficult times since World War II. The revelation of RTV journalist Mojca Pašek Šetinc and her call for anti-government protests further reinforces the belief that the Slovenian national media is fighting a holy war against the new Government.

Hana Murn