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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Incredibly Shameful: Kučan, Cirman, Milosavljević and Starič Sullied Slovenia’s Reputation in a France24 TV Show

By: T. F.

In its show Europe Now, the French television station France24 visited and prepared a short segment about Slovenia, which upset many Slovenian viewers, who have found the segment online, where the video has already been published. In addition to some nice sentiments about the beauty of our mountainous, forested and especially small country in Central Europe, which was ruled by many empires in the past, the host of the show Catherine Nicholson also touched on daily political topics, from Slovenia’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union to Janez Janša, and she even attempts to change the narrative regarding the Slovenian War of Independence.

Host of the show Catherine Nicholson begins her description of the current government of Janez Janša with accusations that it is destroying democracy in the country and adds that they spoke about this with many interlocutors, who described the situation in Slovenia from different political perspectives. However, her colleague, journalist Luke Brown, begins the story of the Slovenian War of Independence with the story of a collaborator of the enemy in the war, the late Toni Mrlak, for whom Brown says he secretly cooperated with the Slovenian Territorial Defence and was unjustly shot when he was on duty. In the clip, Brown talks to Mrlak’s sister-in-law, Draga Potočnjak, who is working hard to get Mrlak to be recognised as a fighter for independence. In the segment, Potočnjak claims that she has been researching the background of her brother-in-law’s death for seven years now and that official records do not show the truth in its entirety.

Years ago, the District Court in Ljubljana rejected the request to initiate an investigation regarding Mrlak’s death. Namely, it accepted the explanation that the then-commander of the independence forces, Anton Krkovič, did not know about Mrlak’s plans to cross over to the Slovenian side and ruled that the helicopter was flying on the instructions of the Yugoslav People’s Army commanders at the time of being shot down – it even flew over the government building, which is why it represented a legitimate military target.

The only political interlocutor that France24 talked to about Slovenian independence is Milan Kučan
In the segment, France24 describes Slovenia as a country that had much better luck in its fight for independence than Croatia or Bosnia, and historian Kornelija Ajlec believes that the main reason for it is that Slovenia was ethically cleaner than the rest of Yugoslavia, and as such, it was not part of the Greater Serbia or Greater Croatia plans. There is no mention of the heroic deeds of the fighters for Slovenian independence, their tactical preparation for war after the self-disarmament, or anything else they did.

The next person who plays an important role in the introduction to Slovenian independence in the segment is the former head of the Communist Party of Slovenia, Milan Kučan, who is presented only as the first President of the Republic of Slovenia. France24 quotes his famous words from the Republic Square at the raising of the Slovenian flag in 1991, “Today, dreams are allowed; tomorrow is a new day.” In the segment, Kučan claims that the optimism of the young country has waned in its 30 years of independence and that the current government is to blame for this because, according to him, it does not enforce human rights or respect the rule of law. Kučan even goes so far as to state that today, our country is more reminiscent of the common country we left 30 years ago.  Paradoxically, Kučan never actually wanted to leave Yugoslavia, as the media reported several times before the independence war that Kučan never favoured Slovenia as an independent state.

In the segment, Kučan also criticises the new independence museum, which, according to him, divides instead of uniting the Slovenian nation. He even goes as far as to accuse the SDS party of using independence for its personal goals. The segment also includes numerous portraits of Kučan from the interwar period.
Nicholson then further explains that the country is currently being suffocated by toxic daily politics.

Somebody maliciously painted a false picture of the current situation in the media for the host of the show Nicholson
Nicholson’s next interlocutor is the State Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Gašper Dovžan, who says that one of the main goals of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the European Union is to realise a green and digital recovery, to insist on the same criteria for all countries in terms of respecting the rule of law, and to help organise a conference on the future of Europe that can ensure stability in the region.

Faced with allegations of low vaccination rates in the country and challenged with the claim that the government’s stricter RVT (recovered, vaccinated, tested) conditions are being implemented for the sake of trying to raise the number of vaccinated people, Dovžan makes it clear that the situation in other EU countries is quite comparable in terms of severity of the measures, and that the other Member States have not had significantly different approaches in the epidemiological crisis. Dovžan also rejects allegations that we have problems with the freedom of the media in Slovenia and says that the European Commission’s reports are too general and based only on what the media report.

Apparently, Slovenian journalists made sure that France24 knows everything about Janša’s fable about the frogs, as the journalist then asks Dovžan why the Prime Minister had declared war on the media. But the State Secretary responds to Nicholson’s statement by asking if she read Janša’s fable at all, as the message was (intentionally) misunderstood. Namely, Janša was not trying to say that the government is at war with the media, but that the exact opposite is true. As for the story about financing the Slovenian Press Agency, State Secretary Dovžan says that the complications have nothing to do with media freedom but with the transparent use of taxpayers’ money.

Tanja Starič maliciously blames Janša for the intrusion of Troha and his supporters
Luke Brown was supposed to also obtain the opinions of the other side, of Slovenian journalists; however, his three interlocutors are all well-known journalistic political activists. The first one is the host of RTV show Odmevi, Tanja Starič, who describes the case of the protester Ladislav Troha and his anti-vax supporters, who broke into the studio of the national media outlet, RTV. “They lay on the floor for an hour, while we remained hidden in our offices, waiting for the police – it was a physical attack,” Starič explains, who is even described as the main host of the evening news programme by Brown. Starič also adds that insults and death threats have become part of their daily routine, blaming not only the protesters for it but also the current government.

“When the people who make the most important decisions in this country call you prostitutes and liars, that is just another step towards aggression. This government believes the media are its enemies, they have declared war on the media, and this is the result of their declaration,” Starič shamelessly blames Janša’s government for Troha and his supporters’ intrusion into RTV.

Primož Cirman is most proud of his article about Janša’s holiday in Mauritius that happened 18 years ago
Brown’s next interlocutor is none other than journalist Primož Cirman, author of daily anti-government articles published on the Necenzurirano (Uncensored) web portal, which is owned by the convicted criminal Martin Odlazek. Brown presents Cirman, the left-wing activist, as Janša’s daily target, and claims that the reason for it is that Cirman exposes government corruption on a daily basis. And what is the article that Cirman brags about to Brown? It is difficult to believe this, but he is most proud of the already failed and forgotten story about Janša’s holiday in Mauritius in 2003 in the company of lobbyist Andrej Marčič. Cirman then complains that Janša’s legal representative Franci Matoz has already filed 39 lawsuits against his far-left web portal for false reports. Cirman even lies to Brown, who has no idea who is behind these media executions, that the lawsuits present an incredible expense for his small media outlet and that they are trying to destroy him with them.

Of course, France24’s segment would not have been “complete” without an appearance from the media expert from the Faculty of Social Sciences, Marko Milosavljević, who says that Janša’s attitude towards the media is a populist tactic of establishing strong private media houses, following Viktor Orban’s example, and that the government is trying to subordinate the public RTV and the Slovenian Press Agency. He then accuses Janša of having a Trump-like attitude towards the mainstream media because he often describes their stories as “fake news.”

“The main problem of this government is not only its attitude to the media but also its attitude to Europe and European values. I am calling on the European Commission to take action if it does not want to become the target of ridicule in the future,” says Milosavljević, who wants to impose financial sanctions against his own homeland.

Jaša Jenull on SMC and DeSUS MPs as culprits for the current situation
The incredibly biased segment on Slovenia, presented by France24, then loses the last bit of credibility when it mentions Friday’s cyclists, on whose behalf Jaša Jenull then appears in front of the cameras. “This country was stolen from us because of five or six individuals who decided that their interest was more important than the will of the people. It is amazing how quickly that can happen in a country we believe to be a normal democracy,” Jenull tells Brown but leaves out the fact that the so-called anti-government protests began even before this government took office, over alleged corruption.

MEP Franc Bogovič points this out; however, the music used as the soundtrack that was added to his segment of the show is not Slovenian but Serbian. It is hard to believe that a reputable international television network can afford to make such an amateur mistake of using Serbian trumpeters in a segment about Slovenia. Among other things, Bogovič says that what Jenull’s cyclists want should not be taken too seriously, as they only represent half a percent of the entire Slovenian nation, and besides, they are an organised group that would continue to protest for the next 200 weeks if a new centre-right government came to power.

Bogovič is then also asked to comment on Janša’s tweets, for which the member of the Slovenian People’s Party says are unnecessary, as politicians should pay more attention to what they say or write but adds that no one can change the direct style of communication of the Slovenian Prime Minister. Bogovič also corrects Brown and tells him that Janša did not call the two journalists prostitutes, but media “presstitutes,” as Slovenian journalists apparently shared false information with the French.

France24 thus paints a picture of Slovenia that was sent out into the world by the above-mentioned journalistic socio-political workers. Does our country really deserve to be so maliciously shamed in the international environment solely because of some media manipulation? You can be the judge of that.


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