Press Statement: Slovakia’s SME Fails to Agree to the Publication of RKN Global Founder’s Entire and Unedited Interview

Fact: Journalists can distort the truth and give incomplete information in order to create sensational stories, and this can hurt real people and their reputations and the companies they build and work for.

Fact: This happened to RKN Global founder Ronald K. Noble when journalist Adam Valček published an incomplete and misleading 22 February article about him and his company without first contacting Mr. Noble or anyone at all from his company.

Publishing an article without contacting the subject first is a violation of universal journalistic standards. It is also a violation of the Code of Ethics of the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists.

But it gets worse: Two days after violating Mr. Noble’s rights and the Code of Ethics, Mr. Valček and his newspaper finally made contact via e-mail. Mr. Noble was rightly concerned about further unethical reporting, and therefore agreed to an interview on terms that would not allow Mr. Valček to further distort the facts: the publication of the original interview in its entirety in both Slovak and English.

Mr. Valček describes their e-mail correspondence inaccurately in the 25 February SME article:

“Mr. Noble has complained as to why journalists have not contacted the owners of the company. When the daily SME tried to make an interview with Mr Noble, he initially promised to do so. Later, he refused to communicate fearing that his words would be incorrectly translated from English.”

With these words, Mr. Valček has distorted the record again—Mr. Noble absolutely did not refuse to communicate; he refused to trust Mr. Valček to write an accurate article without objective safeguards.

We are attaching the entirety of the email exchanges Mr. Noble had with Mr. Valček and one of his colleagues, which demonstrates that Mr. Noble did not refuse to communicate at all, but only insisted on reasonable safeguards to make sure that readers get the truth in its entirety without any distortions from Mr. Valček.

Readers can see that the conditions were both clearly communicated and reasonable, especially in light of Mr. Valček’s earlier journalistic violation, and that they were never accepted by Mr. Valček or his colleague. In today’s article, Mr. Valcek attempts to justify his breach of journalistic ethics on the 22nd of February based on Mr. Noble’s refusal on the 24th to trust him in light of Mr. Valček’s ethical breach.

A journalist’s obligation not to breach the ethical code is present each and every time he researches and publishes an article. Mr. Valček appears to believe that he is not bound by a journalist’s code of ethics.

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Adam Valček wrote to Ronald K. Noble:
hello, mr. Noble,
i have your phone number (+971xxxxxxxxx) from the ministry of economy of the Slovak Republic.
please, is it actual? can we do the interview? when can call you today?
thank you very much.
adam valcek, the daily SME, Slovakia

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Ronald K. Noble wrote to Adam Valček:
Dear Adam,
Good day.
The phone number is correct and actual.
I am available now which is approximately 2:25 your time.
Let me know if my interview will be published in Slovak and English or just in Slovak.
Just send me your questions in writing and then give me a call.
How does that sound?
Kind regards,
Ron (Noble)

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Adam Valček wrote to Ronald K. Noble:
Cc: Thomas Nicholson
Thanks Mr. Noble,
my collegue Tom Nicholson will call you ~2:30 CET. Interview will be publish in Slovak.

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Ronald K. Noble wrote to Adam Valček:
Cc: Thomas Nicholson
Just send them (written questions) to me at least 30 minutes in advance.
Kind regards,

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Thomas Nicholson wrote to Ronald K. Noble:
Hi Mr Noble,
You wrote my colleague Adam that you were available now – which was an hour ago – but you suggested 2.25 our time, which is in an hour from now. Just wanted to touch base with you to figure out when might be suitable.
Tom Nicholson

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Ronald K. Noble wrote to Thomas Nicholson:
Dear Thomas,
I have said to your colleague on two occasions that I first want to see the written questions in advance.
He never responded; he said you would contact me and you did. But you have not given me written questions.
Is there a problem that I do not understand?
Kind regards,
Call me Ron please.

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Adam Valček wrote to Ronald K. Noble:
Mr. Noble, these are issues for interview:
PM of the Slovak Republic said that RKN Global will employ in Banská Bystrica 1200 people, of which 80% with university degrees. 1200 people is only 1/10 of the number of employees on the Giesecke & Devrient. And Austria Card employs 900 people worldwide. So, your business plan sounds unrealistic.
PM of the Slovak Republic said that 20% of the production from the factory in Banská Bystrica will be dedicated to the Slovak market, 80% for export. Slovak banks or mobile operators do not have any information about RKN Global.
Questions about background of your Ukrainian partners & the negotiations with the government of the Slovak Republic.
Questions regarding your work for INTERPOL, especially external funding (FIFA, tobacco and pharmaceutical companies).

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Ronald K. Noble wrote to Adam Valček:
Dear Adam,
Good day.
Your Blog breached the most basic and internationally respected element of fair reporting. You wrote a misleading and incomplete blog involving my company and me without ever contacting me before publication.
By doing so, you have attempted to smear my company’s name and my name without giving me the chance to respond in the same blog at the same time.
So, the truth is that I do not trust that your reporting in Slovak of what I say in English will be neutral, accurate and complete.
So, here is my proposal.

  1. You write your questions in English and Slovak.
  2. I will answer them in English and Slovak.
  3. You agree to publish my answers in their entirety without editing them in English and Slovak.
  4. These conditions are fair. If you accept them, just send me the questions.

If you have another proposal that is fair, just let me know.
Kind regards,

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Adam Valček wrote to Ronald K. Noble:
Mr. Noble, I’m repoter of the daily SME , no blogger. SME is on of the most widely read broadsheet in Slovakia. Our news web is one of the most visited internet portals in Slovakia. So, here is my proposal: we make interview in English and you will get Slovak version available before publishing.

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Ronald K. Noble wrote to Adam Valček:
Dear Adam,
Thank you for the clarification. My apologies.
I am sorry for the misunderstanding, but I had mistaken you for a blogger based on your failure to have contacted RKN Global before writing an incomplete and misleading story.
Please explain to me if you are a reporter from the most widely spread broadsheet in Slovakia why you did not give my company or me an opportunity to comment before publishing your incomplete and misleading story?

I have been working with serious and professional reporters from around the world for over 20 years. I know the international standards for fair reporting. You are expected to contact the subject of your article for comment before publication. Is that not true?
So, why were we not contacted?
You had no problem reaching me today.
Kind regards,

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Thomas Nicholson wrote to Ronald K. Noble:
Dear Ronald,
My colleague didn’t tell me about this before, but now I have reviewed your email communication. So here goes, a number of areas I would like to ask you about:

  1. How you got in touch with Slovak government officials, who you negotiated with – how the investment was born.
  2. Questions about your business plans in Slovakia, particularly the number of employees and the size of the investment. which would make it one of the larger security document operations – why not use production facilities in Ukraine, etc., who would your foreign clients be.
  3. The structure of RKN Global itself – the company has very little name recognition, the address and postal code bring up only 3 hits on Google, its Ukraine technology partners have corruption antecedents – so the overall issue of who is behind the investment, whether they are solid business partners, etc.

I trust that these areas will give you an idea of what we would like to discuss with you.
Tom Nicholson
SME daily

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Ronald K. Noble wrote to Adam Valček and Thomas Nicholson:
Dear Adam/Dear Thomas:
Good evening.
After finding out that you were journalists from such a reputable publication, I researched whether Slovakia’s journalists strived to satisfy international standards.
I was surprised to find out that you breached Slovakian standards.
“From the Code of Ethics of the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists, it states:
In accordance with these regulations (the article of the General Declaration of Human Rights and in accordance with the spirit and the wording of the International Pact of Civic and Political Rights) the journalists in Slovakia lay down the following professionally obligatory ethical limits:

The journalist will do everything which is necessary to give the public true, precise, verified, complete and professional information. The truthfulness of the information requires that the facts on which it is founded be given as objectively as possible, in their true context, without any distortion or withholding of the circumstances, with appropriate use of journalists’ talents. If some facts cannot be verified it is necessary to mention this.
The journalist takes responsibility for everything published by him. Without the consent of the relevant person he is not allowed to defame this person, to interfere with his private life unless this person itself acts against the Law or causes public offence. The journalist will not publish an interview if the person involved does not wish so; the journalist will indicate the author of the statements only if that person agrees to it. For the sake of objectivity, the journalist tries in the course of preparing for an article or writing it to give voice to all the persons concerned.” I do not believe in attacking journalists who ask important questions in a fair manner which gives the person criticized an opportunity to be heard and to respond. It is nonetheless disappointing that you would not only breach international standards but also breach Slovakian journalistic standards by publishing defamatory articles against my company and me without ever having attempted to contact us or to give us the opportunity to give our view.

Very disappointing…
Kind regards,
Ron Noble

On Wed, Feb 24, 2016 Thomas Nicholson wrote to Ronald K. Noble:
Hi Ron,
I came into the mix late today after our paper had already started to report the story. Late yesterday the government provided a contact to you that we could use, which we tried to today, unsuccessfully. Our aim is to establish whether the investment that has been announced is legitimate; it has unfortunately happened before in Slovakia that a government facing reelection has announced a major FDI deal shortly before the ballot, and then it turned out to be moonshine. So please take our interest as healthy (and historically justified) journalistic skepticism. Nothing would please us more than to establish that your announced project will indeed employ 1200 people, many of them university graduates.
If at any point you would be willing to talk, even off record, I would be interested to hear from you to figure out how we can move this important news forward.
Tom Nicholson
SME daily

On Thu, Feb 25, 2016 Ronald K. Noble wrote to Thomas Nicholson:
Dear Tom,
I just re-read the article published by your colleague Adam Roller (Valček) without first contacting me. In the U.S. we call it a hatchet job.
In my 30 years as a professional, no publication has ever attacked me or my reputation without first giving me an opportunity to be heard.
I was going to let it pass before I read Adam Roller’s (Valček ‘s) most recent article where he refers to me as the “reputed” owner of RKN Global even though my company’s ownership shares are posted and I issued a clear statement making clear I am the owner.
He also breaches the Code of Ethics for Slovak Journalists again.
So, we are going to have to go through the formal route of my relying on the your Ethics Code:

“If the journalist publishes untrue, half-true (distorted), speculative or incomplete information, he must rectify it, and publish correction or response. The correction must be published in approximately identical graphical arrangement, and preferably in the same place as the information being corrected.”

I will send you a formal request once I have consulted some experts on Slovak law. It is still very surprising that your editors would have allowed you to publish such a negative article without first contacting me to give me an opportunity to comment before publication.

Off the Record:
Once we get through this correction issue, we can discuss in detail my vision for building a state-of-the-art security printing plant in Banska Bystrica that would eventually employ 1,200 persons. If your colleague had taken time to investigate my background and successes, he would have learned that I am a person who delivers. By the way, do the math. Who will be risking more financially…Slovakia or yours truly?
Kind regards,

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Ronald K. Noble is the founder of RKN Global and currently serves as one of its principal consultants.