By: Sara Bertoncelj / Nova24tv
The Government Communication Office has prepared an analysis of the national media outlet RTV Slovenia’s reporting, from the 31st of January to the 6th of February 2022. During this time, RTV’s reporting included everything from deliberate misleading to extremely offensive and hostile communication. The public broadcaster likes to report on certain public letters but keeps quiet about others – it all depends on who the signatories are. In a similar manner, it also includes the Constitutional Arch Coalition and the new face of the left, Robert Golob, in the first minutes of the news programme but leaves the Let’s Connect Slovenia political alliance (Povežimo Slovenijo) for much later. During the show Dogodki in odmevi (Events and Echoes), the journalist did not even obtain a response to the serious accusations of the government, and in the show Zrcalo tedna (Reflection of the Week), an extremely antisemitic stance was expressed, which could easily be classified as inadmissible fascism. The Mediana agency’s unusual criteria for conducting the public opinion poll, and, last but not least, the extremely hostile tweets posted by an RTV journalist are all things that are actively damaging the national media outlet’s reputation, and above all, the appearance of its credibility and independence.
Journalistic communication can be seen as a process that is a kind of construct of the media reality, or simply – the media’s construction of reality, the images that are presented as news. Journalistic texts are thus the result of an interpretation that influenced the decision of whether or not to report on a certain event and, of course, how to report on it as well. However, the pluralistic communication models that demand equal communication opportunities for all groups in a given society are utopian, as they forget that the ownership or power structure of the mass media in that society itself already prevents communication that is free from these shackles. And even if we take objectivity as perhaps an unattainable ideal, we must nevertheless also accept the assumption that objectivity can be determined by a journalist’s attitude. Despite all the controversy over the objectivity of journalistic reporting, the journalists are still supposed to be committed to reality – which means not only that the information they publish should be true but also that the public has the right to know the truth.
Is it, therefore, permissible, given all that has been written, for a journalist to simply make up a claim that a certain person is an outspoke supporter of the government – although it is not even all that clear on what basis she came to this conclusion? It is true that Teodor Goznikar was a member of the Slovenian National Party (Slovenska nacionalna stranka – SNS), which currently supports the government, but there is nothing more to it. Among the published and publicly available photos of Groznikar, we can also find photos of him in the company of Tanja Fajon, the President of the Social Democrats party (Socialni demokrati – SD), and in addition, there are several of his posts still available on social networks, from which we could conclude that he is actually a supporter of the current opposition. If we overlook all of the deliberate misconceptions, we come to the question – can a journalist even afford this kind of one-sided reporting of facts, which does not even come close to trying to guarantee the public its right to know the truth? Of course, in practically every case where the journalist designs a text, he or she does it in such a way to influence the reader, but in this case, there is almost no informative function, but there is a lot of the interpretive function – which is something that the public radio or television should definitely not allow itself to do.
The public media outlet likes to report on certain letters but keeps quiet about others
On the 31st of January, the news show Dnevnik (Daily) on TV Slovenia reported on a letter or public call from the Alliance for a Democratic and Just Slovenia (Zavezništvo za demokratično in pravično Slovenijo), which called on all democratically oriented political parties to unite and restore the democracy in our country, and it appealed specifically to the SD party, the List of Marjan Šarec (LMŠ), the Party of Alenka Bratupek (SAB), the Left party (Levica) and the Freedom Movement (Gibanje Slovenija). However, back in December, RTV apparently banned the publication of a letter from 27 eminent individuals, with the first signatory being the famous novelist Boris Pahor, in which the authors called for a broad and professional and general civil debate on what kind of education we actually have in Slovenia, and what kind of education we really need. Prior to that, RTV had no problem publishing the letters of many individuals regarding the Globus (Globe) show. On the same day, the media outlet also reported that Minister of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, Janez Cigler Kralj, was also eligible to receive the energy voucher introduced by the current government to help those in need due to the rising prices of electricity, simply because he has four children. “It is not clear whether RTV wants to discriminate against families with three or more children or if, in their opinion, not all citizens should be treated equally before the law,” the Government Communication Office, which analysed RTV’s reporting, wrote in its report.
An example of extremely offensive and hostile communication on the public RTV – what are the criteria for sanctions?
Then, a day later, the national radio station published a show that caused quite a stir, about the symbolism of contemporary folk music, in which the researcher of popular music and professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Dr Peter Stanković, presented his recent studies. He said, among other things: “I do not want to say that this music is autocratic, fascistoid in itself, but with its simple, unambiguous, uniform world, it is a very easy target for such appropriations.” Slovenian folk music is a part of Slovenian culture, so it is unacceptable to insult it and even call it fascistic. This is an example of extremely offensive and hostile communication on the public RTV. In the past, the then-editor of the show Tednik (Weekly), Igor Pirkovič, and the editor-in-chief, Jadranka Rebernik, had to resign due to an interview with an allegedly inappropriate guest, who was not even being insulting in the conversation. “It is not clear when the sanctions will be imposed on the editor who clearly and predictably spreads hate speech,” the Government Communication Office wrote, even though the criteria seem fairly clear.
Golob and the Constitutional Arch Coalition get talked about at the beginning of the show, while the Let’s Connect Slovenia movement gets its time slot much later
On the 2nd of February, the representatives of the Concretely (Konkretno), Slovenian People’s Party (Slovenska ljudska stranka), Andrej Čuš and the Greens of Slovenia (Andrej Čuš in Zeleni Slovenije), New People’s Party of Slovenia (Nova ljudska stranka Slovenije) and New Social Democracy (Novi socialdemokrati) officially joined forces and signed an agreement on their joint appearance at this year’s parliamentary elections, in a political alliance called Let’s Connect Slovenia (Povežimo Slovenijo). Interestingly, on that day, the meeting of the new face of the left, Robert Golob, with the so-called Constitutional Arch Coalition (the left-wing parties of the current opposition) was talked about in the 9th minute of the news show TV Dnevnik, while the agreement of the parties that are part of the Let’s Connect Slovenia alliance was only presented in the 19th minute. A similar thing happened in the show Odmevi (Echoes) – while Golob’s meeting with the Constitutional Arch Coalition was scheduled for the start of the show, the signing of the agreement was only mentioned in the 14th minute. Several media outlets reported that day that due to the unpaid taxes, the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia had blocked the Necenzurirano.si (Uncensored) media outlet’s account. However, the public media outlet was not one of them. RTV obviously deliberately censored such a drastic intervention in this media outlet. In the past, RTV has reported extensively and sensationally on any state activity in relation to any media outlet. But in this case, their non-reporting is especially worrying because they censored the whole thing and thus protected their regular commentator, Primož Cirman, who is one of the journalists of the Necenzurirano.si media outlet, and whose fate is becoming more and more uncertain every day.
The journalist did not obtain a response to the serious accusations against the government
Recently, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government should not unilaterally interfere in the financial plans of the independent institutions, namely, the National Council, the Court of Audit, the Human Rights Ombudsman, and the Constitutional Court. The National Council will therefore propose a constitutional review of the budgets for the years 2022 and 2023 and will try to get the other independent institutions to join the initiative. Some of these institutions have received the funding they agreed to but nevertheless believe that the law on public finances needs to be amended and that the financial independence of independent institutions needs to be achieved. On February 6th, in the show Dogodki and Odmevi, we saw a case of completely biased reporting on the whole situation. The journalist did not obtain a response from the government to the serious accusations. From what has been said, it is not entirely clear what the problem is. Can each institution determine for itself how much money it needs, and as a result, should the state always provide as much money as they want?
An extreme antisemitic position that could easily be classified as inadmissible fascism
On the show Zrcalo tedna, the journalist said about Israel that “the international community has been unable to stop the Israeli state’s criminal activities practically since the founding of Israel in 1948.” This is an extremely antisemitic position, which could easily be classified as inadmissible fascism, from which it could even be concluded that the journalist is denying Israel the right to its own state. This kind of antisemitism is something completely unacceptable and extremely rejected, especially in the context of national media reporting. This is a trend of the apparent continuation of the promotion of antisemitism. As is known, last year RTV also censored the publication of an interview with the Israeli ambassador to Slovenia.
RTV also published a public opinion poll, prepared by the Mediana agency, in which the first question is, which parliamentary party would you most likely vote for, and the second question is, which of the listed parties or alliances would you most likely vote for if the elections were held this Sunday. Among the parliamentary parties, the Mediana agency now started to include the Pirates (Pirati), the Greens (Zeleni), and the Good State (Dobra država). It is not entirely clear when these parties have managed to become parliamentary parties, as they do not have a single representative in the Slovenian or the European parliament. In the second question, the response “I would not go vote” also appears, which indicates that in the first question, the respondent did not have the option of choosing this answer. This could also change the outcome of the first question. It seems as if the people who conducted this public opinion poll are just making the survey answers up on the go, as the response “I would not go vote” would be an expected option in both the second as well as the first question. These are, therefore, completely different criteria for conducting a public opinion poll, which is something that RTV did not point out.
A journalist who publicly publishes extremely hostile tweets and is thus damaging the reputation of RTV
And finally, we have to also mention the insulting tweet published by an MMC (RTV’s multimedia centre) journalist, Boris Vasev, about his journalistic colleague Igor Pirkovič. Vasev wrote the following: “Pirkovič has a child’s mind. And this child is a stupid peasant whose only motivation to work is to defend and promote Janša and his satellites. But let’s not forget: the interim editor-in-chief of the news programme, and, to a lesser extent, all colleagues who tolerate such ‘journalists,’ are responsible for this.” Whether this is a journalistic or a personal opinion is a matter of debate. Nevertheless, the fact that the RTV journalist is publicly publishing extremely vile and even hostile tweets, in which he goes against his own colleagues, is damaging the reputation of RTV, and especially the credibility and independence of this media outlet, as his publications are not journalistic content, but a classic case of hate speech. Given that RTV considers BBC to be its example, in which such behaviour is not permissible for understandable reasons, the question is why such actions, which cause detriment to the public institution that we all pay for, are even allowed.