When I first read a public letter titled ‘Protect sensitive Slovenian democracy against authoritarian rule’, I was convinced that it was fake news, the so-called fake news. Who would dare to publicly sign under the contents of a composite half-truths and untruths, which can be made clear to anyone with access to the Internet and some historical memory.
Of extreme concern, however, was the realization that this was an authentic text with the signatures of 75 academics, including as many as eight former rectors. I hardly believe that any of the signatories do not know the history and did not understand the text, which was extracted and commented on by almost all Slovenian media overnight, so I think that this is nothing more than their conscious political move. Leaving aside, the signatories are also formerly prominent politicians in leftist governments, who have returned to the academic sphere after their political end and those who came to offices during those governments. The problem is that those mentioned in the public letter did not sign themselves as citizens of a certain political belief, which in the sense of political pluralism and in the broadest sense would be understood as commenting on people of different political views.
They said they signed the initiative as scientists and academics. This, however, is of particular concern in terms of the reputation of the institutions to which they belong and the general reputation of whole science in Slovenia. When scientists sign their titles, they give the impression that the institutions in which they operate, stand behind their positions. Namely, scientists, public and private research organizations, universities and other academic institutions must abide by codes of conduct for the preservation of scientific honesty, which are intended to preserve the reputation and credibility of science. The Code of Conduct commits these organizations and their employees to promoting the principles of fairness in their operations and research, notably:
- • Honesty in communication,
- • objectivity,
- • impartiality and independence,
- • honesty in citing resources and acknowledging merit.
Let us analyse the claims, made in the letter Let us defend sensitive Slovenian democracy in front of authoritarian authorities, which discusses why Janez Jansa and the SDS policy should be unacceptable for running the country:
Assertion: First, it is unacceptable because of its political values, because with its authoritarianism, exclusion, tendency to subjugate social systems, orbanization and nationalist populism, it poses a great danger to the country’s democratic culture and political processes.
First: In Slovenia power is vested in the people. (Article 3 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia) The danger for democracy cannot come from political parties that win a legitimate election.
Assertion: Secondly, it is unacceptable economically and socially because it wants to carry out a headless privatization of companies, public education and health care and has already proved its harmful influence on the domestic economy and social life in the years when we had the first and second Jansa governments in Slovenia.
Second: It is best to ask about the impact of the first two spring governments on the economy, which, with the exception of politically incumbent directors in state-owned companies, assesses the achievements of these two governments significantly differently than the academic choir.
Assertion: Third, it is unacceptable in view of the introduction of the necessary measures against dramatic climate change, as the SDS has repeatedly shown that it is one of the so-called negatives of human impact on climate change, thereby openly mocking scientific findings. With such a coalition government, our country would become unique in the European Union!
Third: The last two governments have failed to put in place all the necessary measures against climate change. Climate change denying and, at the same time, supporting political projects like the TES6 type, another train track and the C0 channel, will not protect our planet. Why were the signatories silent on these projects?
Assertion: Fourth, it is unacceptable in terms of political and media culture, using open rhetoric of hatred, intolerance, xenophobia, homophobia and lies, using its media brass to propagate, spread ideology, fake news and conspiracy theories, discredit individuals or political opponents and adversaries.
Fourth: Media culture in Slovenia needs to be raised at all levels. If we do a little browsing through the columns of the aforementioned professors in the leftist political media and the fact that they have signed this public letter, then they are unacceptable even to themselves.
Assertion: Fifth, it is unacceptable because of the direct pressure on the judiciary, the frank attempts at its lustration, the subjugation and, finally, the contemptuous attitude when it comes to attending courts and taking subpoenas.
Fifth: Trust in the Slovenian judiciary is at one of the lowest levels in the EU in Slovenia. Following last year’s measurement of economic freedom, the judiciary has become even less independent and impartial. This cannot be due to the politics of one party, but is the result of many known cases where the judiciary in Slovenia has been used for political purposes.
Assertion: Sixth, it is unacceptable because of reinterpretations and misrepresentations of historical facts, attitudes towards the National Liberation War, appropriation of Slovenia’s independence, which are all abused for political purposes.
Sixth: Falsifying historical facts is one of the most condemnable acts of our nation, dragging on throughout history. The most abuses of our history, however, happened in the post-war period. Unfortunately, those responsible for this still live and work politically, those who cannot even condemn crimes against our own people. Where is the simultaneous condemnation of these people?
Assertion: Seventh, it is totally unacceptable because it illegally finances its propaganda from foreign sources most closely linked to the authoritarian government of the neighbouring country, which seriously jeopardize our sovereignty and financial independence, a prerequisite for the rule of law and democracy and also to fight corruption.
Seventh: Alleged illegal financing of media from foreign sources. In the first place, these are unproven claims, which classifies this claim as pursuing a criminal offense under Article 161 of the Criminal Code. What about the political media that regularly provide respected professors with their own media space and have shared or foreign ownership, or the fact that even the largest Slovene media are partially or fully owned by foreign funds? Are they subject to some different rules?
In a public letter, signed by scientists and academics, there are thus more falsehoods and half-truths that constitute a breach of the scientific code and thus a more serious breach of the scientific and research ethos. It is expected that the leadership of the institutions, within which they operate, will be determined by the claims of their academics, as the scientific code further states: “Institutions that do not deal with this type of crime are also guilty. The investigation of the allegations must be in accordance with national law and natural justice. It must be fair and swift and lead to appropriate results and sanctions. “
If there was a discrepancy between the positions of the aforementioned institutions and their researchers, we would also expect the institutions to distance themselves from their statements. However, the damage caused to Slovenian science, by its signature in a misleading letter, will probably never be completely repaired.
Editor’s note: Primož Jelševar is the director of the Institute Dr. Anton Korošec.