By: Prof. dr. Janez Jerovšek, Mag. Andrej Aplenc
Prof. dr. Janez Jerovšek and mag. Andrej Aplenc, together we address a statement on the Slovenian media to the Slovenian and European public, as our comment on the statements of some representatives of the European Commission. These statements are without evidence and are based solely on the opinions of unknown sources who questioned the freedom of the media, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the state of democracy in Slovenia.
Prof. dr. Janez Jerovšek and mag. Andrej Aplenc were the editors of the thematic issue of Dignitas magazine for human rights. This thematic issue was entitled Media Construction of Slovenian Reality (published by Nova revija, 2002). The issue included 24 articles previously published in seven research reports on democratic values in the Slovenian media. The research was financially supported by the Slovenian government. The authors of the articles published in Dignitas magazine were acclaimed analysts, university professors, journalists and political commentators.
This issue of Dignitas magazine described the situation in the media in 2002, and the analysis presented is still very current.
At that time, Dane Zajc was the greatest Slovenian poet and astute political commentator. In the foreword to the thematic issue of Dignitas magazine entitled Creating a Province, Dane Zajc wrote:
The research in this book has been in the making for over a year. They point to self-censorship and to the censorship that is characteristic of our press. They show how many of our journalists allow themselves to be commanded and how they allow themselves to order opinions from them, which they then publish as their own beliefs or discoveries, even though they probably have no belief or their own view of what they are writing about. And so they shape public opinion. To cover up the truth, they paint it with half-truths. Slovene public opinion, which is already shaky and ignorant, is thus encouraged in relativism, nihilism and philistinism. This, of course, is the damage they cause directly to the readership for which they write.
And, of course, there is the question of responsibility, this popular word from the spirit of self-governing times, from which a certain number of journalists come and insist on its manipulative mentality.
And it’s not just that. In many articles we find a marked malice towards the victim to whom the journalistic pen is devoted. Which is typical of petty-bourgeois souls. Which makes our public a gossipy and narrow-minded province.
The results and course of our research were presented several times at the press conferences of the institute. But without effect …
This was written by Dane Zajc at the time. The situation is even worse today.
Let’s introduce ourselves now. Prof. dr. Janez Jerovšek and mag. Andrej Aplenc, we were among the founders of the Institute for the Revival of Civil Society. The president of the
Institute in the early 2000s was the poet Dane Zajc. An important part of the Institute’s work was the publication in 2002 of the thematic issue of the magazine Dignitas for Human Rights, The Media Construction of Slovenian Reality.
Prof. dr. Janez Jerovšek received his doctorate in 1968 from the Faculty of Philosophy, University of Ljubljana, where he later became a professor. From 1974 to 1986, he was banned from lecturing in the totalitarian regime for political reasons. After Slovenian independence, in 1991 and 1992, he was the director of RTV Slovenia. He lost office for political reasons after the change of government, when the renewed communists took over the democratic power which appointed him to this office. He is the author of numerous books and more than three hundred articles in the field of sociology.
Master Andrej Aplenc was twice imprisoned as a pupil and student in the well-known concentration camp Goli otok. He later emigrated to the United States and in 1970 received his master’s degree from the Thayer School of Engineering, Dartmouth College. He served as an engineer for more than two decades, returned to Slovenia in 1991, and was appointed General Manager of Slovenske železarne. He was then ousted when the renewed communists took power during the transition. He is the author of two books and numerous articles in the field of political analysis.
We establish that the country is still under tension, which dates back to the times of mass killings in Slovenia immediately after the end of the Second World War. This tension is reflected in all areas of political life and is also the reason for the accusation of Slovenian transition-left-wing journalists and politicians in Europe that the current government of the Republic of Slovenia, led by Janez Janša, is opposing media freedom. The truth is actually just the opposite.
In 2002, prof. dr. Janez Jerovšek wrote in the magazine Dignitas, Media Construction of Slovenian Reality: »The reason for such an unplural and undemocratic state of the media is that about 80 percent of the socialist-era elite survived the collapse of socialism and maintained their positions even in the transition period.«
He went on to write: »In the research, we studied the influence of the media on the formation of public opinion … We have shown a series of attempted media assassinations of famous public figures. We analyzed the arrogant style of writing in commentary, which is not in line with the principles of professional journalism, nor with the ethics of writing with good taste. That is why our research has been angrily attacked in the dominant and monopoly daily media, saying that it is unnecessary and that we are wasting taxpayers’ money, that it is an assassination attempt on public opinion research and the like. Some journalists, who do not follow professional standards and codes of ethics in their commentary, have even tried to devalue us professionally, even though most members of the research team have doctoral degrees and there are two members of the Academy of Sciences and Arts, and the team members are university professors with thirty years of experience in empirical research and most members have rich references with numerous books and with important positions. Importantly, some members were imprisoned during socialism and served a total of about fifteen years in prison, while some were professionally and labor-wise persecuted.«
This record of dr. Jerovšek covered the main characteristics of the actual situation of the Slovenian media in 2002, which were elaborated in detail in the magazine Dignitas,
Media Construction of Slovenian Reality. In fact, this situation is still the same today.
We note that the statements of some representatives of the European Commission are untrue. Without evidence, they questioned the freedom of the media, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the state of democracy in Slovenia. Obviously, the
sources of these statements are in the circles of the Slovenian media scene, which is dominated by the post-communist transitional left.
We want to present some facts that point to a very one-sided media scene in Slovenia, a scene that is very poorly understood abroad.
The fact is that more than 80 % of all media are owned by transitional rich people who support the transitional left.
The fact is that in 2018, Prime Minister Marjan Šarec publicly called on state and other companies not to publish advertisements in the media criticizing his government.
The fact is that the current government of Prime Minister Janez Janša does not intimidate any journalists because that is not its intention. It has no legal or proprietary leverage to do so. It is also a fact that the names of the journalists who were allegedly intimidated by the Janez Janša government were not published.
The fact is that Prime Minister Janez Janša has not sued any journalist, despite the fact that newspaper articles that have been false, offensive and contain fake news have been published for years. A typical example of this is the fake news that Prime Minister Janez Janša has a clinic in Australia.
The fact is that the newspaper Delo, which is owned by the capital of transitional provenance, fired the editor-in-chief Uroš Urbas and his deputy Ženja Leiler without explanation last year, and fired a number of journalists. It is an open secret that this editorial board was not anti-Janša oriented enough and that it repeatedly pointed out the main problems of the media, ie that entrepreneurs directly influence them by denying advertisements and similar pressures.
The fact is that a survey of the media scene conducted at the Faculty of Media at the end of last year showed a marked imbalance in the media space, there is significantly more defense of opposition positions, and significantly more left-leaning articles. This is not surprising because it matches the results of research done in the past.
The fact is that at the session of the RTVS programming council on 9 May 2016, the journalists of the RTVS National Television Active developed a poster with the inscription »Death to Janšism«. The RTVS management did nothing about it and there were no consequences for the journalists. In fact, such speech constitutes hate speech that is legally punishable. This slogan, »Death to fascism«, which threatened the occupier with death during the war, is now used against the legal government, and at the same time encouraged the mass use of the death threat to the current prime minister and the slogan »Kill Janša«. Imagine the same thing happening in Germany, with the words »Death to Merkelism«, or in France, »Death to Macronism«, or in England, »Death to Johnsonism«. This is unimaginable in Europe, while in Slovenia it happened without any consequences. It is also a fact that these journalists still report on RTVS.
The fact is that, just like in 2008, when Slovenia held the presidency of the EU Council, when 571 journalists signed a statement blackening the Slovenian government with untrue information before Europe, that even now, a few months before Slovenia’s re-
presidency of the EU Council, some (the same) journalists of the transitional tycoon left are trying to blacken the government of the Republic of Slovenia with (similar) false statements, as in 2008, because, as then, it is led by Prime Minister Janez Janša.
The fact is that in May 2020, Slovenian MEP Tanja Fajon, president of the Social Democrats, paid homage in front of the monument to Boris Kidrič, who was one of the leaders of the communist revolution during the war and participated in the establishment of communist rule after the war – that is, during the post-war massacres, when more than 800 mass graves were built in Slovenia, when there were concentration camps, when there were staged trials with death sentences, when there was one-party system without freedom of speech and freedom of the media. This attitude of MEP Tanja Fajon is the same as if the president of the German Social Democratic Party were to bow before the monument to Erich Honecker, if such a monument even exists.
We believe that the invitation of Prime Minister Janez Janša to form an ad hoc working group, consisting of representatives of the European Commission, which would visit Slovenia and get acquainted with all the objective facts, is very justified. Also because the Government of the Republic of Slovenia has denied some of the statements made at the meeting of the Commission of the Member of the European Parliament Sophie Helena in ‘t Veld in the European Parliament on 28 March 2021.
Finally, we should mention the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe 1069, which talks about the measures needed to eliminate the negative consequences of the former communist totalitarian regimes. The dangers that the transition process – from communism to democracy – will fail are manifold. We believe that this is clearly evident in Slovenia as well.