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Wednesday, October 5, 2022

How Gregor Golobič used to call the main Slovenian media to determine editorial policy, change editors and cancel TV shows – today he is forming the KUL coalition!

By:Sara Kovač

“I simply cannot work in a media house that throws its people on the street for freedom of speech. This is contrary to my personal principles, as well as basic journalistic principles,” were the words of the former editor of the news program Trenja, when this show was cancelled due to political pressures. Years ago, the editor-in-chief of the show Trenja and Svet on Kanal A experienced how the media is commanded or at least controlled by Gregor Golobič. Golobič once obsessively controlled almost all Slovenian media, but today he is the main operative of the KUL coalition, under the pretext of formateur Jože P. Damijan.

Gregor Golobič is considered to be the most obsessed Slovenian politician with power. At the height of his political power, when the government was led by the now bankrupt LDS, he controlled the economy, and even more so the Slovenian media. He controlled the media with the flow of advertising money from monopoly state-owned companies. It is interesting that, despite brutal interventions in the media, he was never accused by the Slovenian Journalists’ Association, journalists nor editors of interfering in editorial policies and attempts at political subordination. Only a few pointed out Golobič’s presumptuous interventions.

On the website of the Association of Journalists and Publicists (ZNP) we find a record from 2009 titled “Inadmissible attack by Gregor Golobič on a journalist and editor of TV Slovenia.” The Association of Journalists and Publicists protested against the politically motivated pressures exerted on the editorial board of the TV Slovenia news program, by the at the time president of the Zares party and the minister of the government coalition Gregor Golobič. “In a press release on May 29, 2009, the champion of the Zares party personally attacked journalist Matej Hlebš and TV Slovenija editor Rosvita Pesek after TV Slovenija reported on loans granted by NLB banka, which is majority state-owned, for the needs of the company Ultra. Gregor Golobič is an important co-owner of Ultra through the Dutch branch of Ultra Sum”. With all forms of pressure, the Zares party, as a party of the government coalition, tried to block critical journalistic voices in the media, which were influenced by the ruling politics. Golobič’s argument for attacking the journalist and editor of TV Slovenia and his commitment to exposing the controversial actions of state-owned bank administrations in granting loans on the basis of dubious guarantees turned out to be completely unreliable just a few days later. On June 3, 2009, the president of the Zares party admitted to the media that he had lied to journalists in the past when he concealed his ownership stake in the Dutch company Ultra Sum.

Gregor Golobič is a former politician who had the greatest influence on the media and the journalistic community, as well as on the distribution of advertising money through state-owned companies to the media. He was almost obsessed with media control, Požareport wrote, explaining that there were times when you could hardly get a job as a journalist if you had no ties to him adding that the media could not get advertising contracts with  state-owned companies without his consent. An example of paying journalists with taxpayers’ money is the case of Nataša Briški. Moreover, Požareport wrote that Golobič dictated an article about the insurance company Vzajemna from the office of Bojan Petan, the president of the management board of Dnevnik and DZS. He dictated it to Gregor Repovž, who was still a journalist for the newspaper Delo at the time, and who later became the editor-in-chief of Mladina. Petan was considered Golobič’s political ally, as the latter enabled him to acquire a majority stake in the newspaper company without a legally determined offer and sale and without a public tender. At the time when DZS company owned by Bojan Petan bought the shares of Dnevnik owned by the state funds, Petan was the president of the LDS in the municipality of Brežice. In addition, Petan and Golobič were capitally related in the company Margento Services, where DZS had a forty percent share and the company Margento, owned by Ultra, had the remaining sixty percent share.

The Slovenian Journalists’ Association never protested Golobič’s pressure

Golobič did not only deal with RTV,  his tentacles reached commercial television as well. The show Svet was the first to publish documents about Ultra’s mailboxes in Amsterdam, which disclosed that Golobič was one of the co-owners of the Zagorje company. With this and some other revelations, the show Trenje aroused the anger of the ruling authorities. The show Trenja on POP TV was cancelled soon after, Bojan Traven, who was the editor-in-chief of Kanal A at the time, confirmed that there were political reasons for this. The worst pressures were happening just in time during the Ultra and Bullmastiff affair. The Association of Journalists and Publicists wrote in its 2009 report that: “The biggest problem with freedom of the press in Slovenia is the lack of media pluralism, as the editorial policies of the largest Slovenian newspapers are supported by the left-wing ruling parties. These also have influence through state-owned companies, which are mostly media advertisers, including those not owned by persons politically affiliated with the ruling parties.” The Zares party of the Minister of Higher Education and Science Gregor Golobič and the LDS party of the Minister of the Interior Katarina Kresal were particularly pointed out.

Let’s remember that the bullmastiff affair also had political consequences – it marked the beginning of the political decline of the at the time Minister of the Interior and President of the LDS, Katarina Kresal. In short, the management of Pro Plus terminated Bojan Traven’s contract, and Uroš Slak left in solidarity with him. Similar to the Trenje show, which was most criticized by the leading officials of the Zares party, in an interview with Dnevnik, the former Minister of Higher Education ranked Kanal A among the “media sewers” together with the weekly Reporter, daily Finance and the web portal Požareport. It was also alarming that the leader of the parliamentary group of the second largest coalition party, Cveta Zalokar Oražem, when asked about the purge on RTV Slovenia, stated that it would not be damaging if a bad journalist lost his/her job. By “bad” she probably meant not to the liking of the ruling coalition.

At that time, the situation at the largest Slovenian newspaper company, Delo, which was indirectly owned by the state, were also unusual. Former editor-in-chief Darijan Košir described his replacement as political and got involved in a controversy with former President Milan Kučan, the Association of Journalists and Publicists reported. Košir pointed out that the owner of Pivovarna Laško, which owns Delo, is the largest Slovenian bank NLB, which is majority owned by the state, and that the ruling politics has a decisive influence on staffing in the newspaper Delo. We have already written about the fact that Golobič worked operatively for Milan Kučan and that he is still described in public as the Kučan’s man. This was sometimes only speculated about, but Kučan’s long-time adviser Zdenko Roter publicly admitted it and described it in his book entitled Fallen Masks. In it, Roter explains in detail the system of the governing forces from the background of the transitional left, and also describes how he and Golobič pulled Janez Drnovšek’s leg.

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