Members of the European Parliament coming from the ranks of the SDS Party Milan Zver, Romana Tomc and Patricija Šulin have sent a written question to the European Commission today concerning the recent call by the Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, published on the official website of the Prime Minister’s Cabinet, in which he called on companies that are partially or majority-owned by the state to stop advertising in the media that spread hate speech.
MEPs are interested in whether such an attempt to affect action and freedom of the media is in line with the commitments to respect freedom and independence of the media to which Slovenia had committed while joining the EU. And, does the European Commission believe that such a call from the Prime Minister is also an attempt to politically influence business decisions of companies that are supposed to be freely taken by their management bodies. MEPs are also interested to know what the European Commission intends to do about this kind of behavior.
For the record, Slovenian Prime Minister Marjan Šarec recently called on companies that are partially or majority-owned by the state to stop advertising in the media that spread hate speech. The Prime Minister said yesterday that he was pleased that his call had caused quite a stir and that people began to think about it. However, the statements of the Prime Minister Marjan Šarec regarding the ban on advertising cannot be taken merely as a well-meant warning or opinion, nor we can reduce it only to “raising a stir”.
According to the Association of Journalists and Publicists, such a call is dangerously reminiscent to the recent times of media censorship. It is an attempt to politically disable the functioning of the media critical of the government, from the position of power. It is known that for some time already representatives of the government parties have been criticizing the critical media for spreading hate speech, while the definition of hate speech is left to the subjective assessment of government politicians. The Association of Journalists and Publicists adds that the government’s side often accuses the media of hate speech merely based on critical writing about migration or government policy in this area.
Respected Slovenian lawyers Andraž Teršek, Matej Avbelj, Jurij Toplak and Jernej Letnar Černič wrote in a public letter on freedom of expression that the Prime Minister is seriously crossing the line of politically acceptable if he appoints himself as a judge on what is a hate contents, who is responsible for it and how to oppose it. Especially, if he strongly suggests that they come only from one of the two political sides. The aforementioned lawyers add that the Prime Minister, as a human being, has the right to give such value estimations, but that he, as a prime minister, goes too far in making such a statement suggesting a general existence of hate speech as a crime in these media. In the appeal, the lawyers also point out the politically illegitimate and unacceptable pressure on the companies, on which the state has a direct impact when wholly, largely or partially included as owner or supervisor. At the same time, they propose to the Prime Minister Šarec cautiousness and prudence to not cross the limit of freedom of action and expression, which befits a Prime Minister.
In a democratic state, law enforcement and judicial authorities are those responsible to judge what exceeds the freedom of expression, which can and must under no circumstances be judged by the Prime Minister.