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Letter from Peter Jambrek and Dimitrij Rupel to the Guardian: We feel sorry that unbalanced and fake debate re-appears in a highest status international daily of The Guardian. Readers deserve better


Reply to Shaun Walker: “Slovenia’s PM Janša channels Orbán with attacks on media and migrants”, The Guardian, May 4, 2020

Ljubljana, May 6, 2020

Mr. Walker’s initial idea that journalists are, or should be somehow exempt or at least protected from criticism or even persecution by political authorities, is correct and generally acceptable. The delicate aspect of the idea is the definition of journalism and journalists. In (former) Communist countries, Slovenia being one of them, journalists were not entitled to independent and critical opinions, certainly not critical opinions about the authorities. They used to be defined as “social-political workers” and were supposed to work on the same side with Party officials, Secret police etc. Authors from the other side were dissidents, many of whom were imprisoned, cleansed (“lustrified”) or at least censored. In 1990, some of them, Janez Janša among them, replaced former leaders. But they have not – due to their moral principles, occasionally due to naiveté – cleansed/lustrified the cleansers/lustrifiers. Here begins the interesting story of modern Slovenia, its democracy and its journalism.

In 1990, former dissidents (assembled in the coalition “Demos”) won parliamentary elections promising western style democracy and national independence; but former President of the Communist Party Milan Kučan defeated the dissident candidate Jože Pučnik, and became the first President of Slovenia. (He stayed as President until 2002.) His election meant partial protection of the former ruling class including the social-political workers in the media. Except for the Government ministers, Demos replaced practically noone, the result of  which was its short life (until 1992). Former Party officials and social-political workers, some of them converted to Social democrats or Liberals, survived in top positions of Slovenia for approximately 80% of the thirty years time between after 1990. Their predominant policy/orientation was to prevent the Demos group of parties ever to return to power.

The mainstream, Government inspired/financed media and their social-political workers turned journalists would incessantly canonize the “Center-Left” coalitions and demonize the “Center-Right” – Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party- (SDS-) led – coalition. In 2004, in spite of everything, this coalition won parliamentary elections, provoking fire and fury of the “Center-Left” camp. Mr. Blaž Zgaga who has had some experience in organizing anti-Janša protests, collected in 2007 – together with another journalistic activist Matej Šurc –  571 signatures against Slovenian Presidency of the European Union. After its – contrary to Zgaga’s ambition – distinguished conclusion in July 2008, Janša lost elections at the end of 2008. In 2012, Mr. Boris Vezjak, a philosopher organizing the “Maribor  uprising” – together with a corruption hunter Goran Klemenčič – contributed to the demise of another Janša coalition. Then came the year 2020.

Mr. Walker’s article has raised some eyebrows among impartial and benevolent people in Slovenia and among the people who appreciate the reputation of The Guardian. The article starts out with the hypothesis that Janša is using the coronavirus crisis for political advantage. Slovenian prime minister is associated with Trump-like tendency to fire tweets, accused of alliance to prime minister Victor Orban, support of Hungarian and the Polish governments, of backing cronyism and corruption… The article’s concluding worry is that the Slovenian prime minister attempts to redraw Slovenia’s political scene, and to go on in this direction until the end, as far as Hungarian prime minister. Most of the above accusations are clearly false; founded on doubtful tweets and comments of  political activists close to the former Government and to the present opposition.

Readers of the International edition of The Guardian (4 May, 2020) deserve better. They should realize that the article published in the distinguished paper could not avoid influencing debates and rumors – read, provoking political damage – in Slovenia and the EU, regardless the British withdrawal from such company.

To begin with, we take note, that the over-all picture of the state of the nation, including the state of democracy and the media in Slovenia, is wrong. The authors of these remarks do not see ourselves as followers of Slovenian Leftist or Rightist parties, and we are neither members nor activitists of the center-right party of the present PM. But we are strongly critical of general democratic and media achievement in our country. Let us explain that in a short sketch:

The mainstream printed and electronic media in Slovenia are anchored in and supporting the left political bloc, except the small regional and specialised media, or weekly magazines in the realm of the Catholic church or some political party. Approximately 50 % of the electorate whose personal preferences and views are conservative, are left with no media articulating and defending them as citizens and voters.

The mainstream leftist media shift their editorial perceptions from that of »an internal plurality of policies« aiming to appear neutral in periods between parliamentary elections, to fierce counterfactual campaining for the left bloc before elections or in times perceived as strategic and critical by the national lefitist leadership, whoever that may be. For thirty years, from 1990 till the present, this was the permanent feature of the mainstream media treatment of Janez Janša and his political party. Both were and are are considered class enemies, an attitude derived from Communist propaganda, associating the enemy with domestic and foreign elements threatening the dominant order and its power structure. In this respect, the character assassination campain against Janez Jansa and the Slovenian democratic party goes on uninterrupted to the present day.

We feel sorry that the kind of Slovenian-grown partisan, unbalanced and fake (Thomas Luckmann would call it counterfactual) debate re-appears in a highest status international daily of The Guardian. Let us conclude with an observation of the best modern Slovenian poet Dane Zajc, who  in 2002 wrote: »In many articles, one can sense an explicit maliciousness and a satisfaction in the victimhood of those being described by the journalistic pen. So typical of the petty bourgeois spirit. And thus our public arena is transformed into a gossipy, narrow-minded province.«  

Peter Jambrek, first President of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia, first Slovenian judge at the European Court of Human Rights and

Dimitrij Rupel, Minister of foreign affairs of the Republic of Slovenia (1990-1993, 2000-2008), Mayor of Ljubljana (1994-1997), Ambassador of Slovenia in Washington (1997-2000).


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