By: Sara Bertoncelj / Nova24tv
“I am saddened to see these attempts to weaken our position in Europe. These attempts against the government of Janez Janša, which took office just before the pandemic and which tirelessly helped the Slovenian population, economy and various sectors to overcome the pandemic as smoothly as possible. The Commission has announced a faster recovery for Slovenia than for some other Member States. The government’s efforts are yielding results,” MEP Romana Tomc told an Eurocativ journalist. Namely, the journalist was interested in the events that are supposed to lead Slovenia to the inclusion on the CIVICUS monitor, where countries are under scrutiny due to human rights violations. But the journalist did not like the answer, so she did not include it in her article.
The journalist of the web portal sent the following question: “Euractiv has learned that Slovenia will be added to the CIVICUS international monitor or human rights checklist tomorrow, due to concerns about the recent decline in civil liberties. Among the main reasons for this decision are the media situation, in particular the allegations about the hostile environment faced by journalists and the state of funding of STA. I was wondering if you would be available to comment on that.”
After receiving an answer from MEP Romana Tomc, the journalist decided not to use her statement in the article – which she also told Tomc. Did the statement not coincide with the agenda of this online medium, which was obviously commissioned, in what way Slovenia should be reported on? “We decided to use audio format instead of writing an article on this topic, so we will not be able to include the comment you provided, but I appreciate you taking the time to give such a detailed answer,” wrote journalist Molly Killeen, who on June 18th wrote an article about how Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša allegedly attacked the Council of Europe over a report on media freedom – interestingly, this was her first article for Euractiv.
Such a picture of Slovenia is seen only by those who do not know the situation and deliberately spread false news
“Dear Ms. Killeen, thank you very much for contacting us and for being ready to hear our side of the story,” Tomc wrote at the beginning of the statement for the journalist, adding that, unfortunately, the CIVICUS report is just another suggestion in a series of measures against the Slovenian government. There have been many such attempts in Slovenia, but without success. Therefore, these attempts have now moved to the European level. Unfortunately, the report is so unbalanced that it is difficult to take it as a serious report. It would be necessary to check who are the sources of information on the basis of which the report is prepared. That would clarify many things. “Let me explain some additional facts about Slovenia. It is clear to everyone in Slovenia that the government does not use any violence against journalists and does not restrict media freedom. Such a story is seen only by those who do not know the situation in Slovenia, who do not understand the language in order to monitor the situation and those who want to intentionally harm the current government and spread false news, malicious information and lies. The current government does not persecute or intimidate journalists. It is unfortunate that many of them are trapped in precarious employment and represent to their owners only a kind of means of maintaining a monopoly, for which they receive miserable pay. These are the problems that should be discussed,” said the MEP.
The problems of the Slovenian media space are non-transparent ownership and large, probably legally inadmissible media concentrations
According to an independent survey by the Faculty of Media, as many as 80 percent of Slovenian media are left wing and pro-government. Many posts can also be found on the profiles of journalists on social networks, which clearly show strong activism against the government. Journalists can publicly label the government, the Prime Minister and the Slovenian president as fascists. None of them were prosecuted for it. “Do you think this is an example of attacks and pressure on the media and journalists,” Tomc asked the journalist. The story of the Slovenian Press Agency is also much broader than described in the media. It is a question of transparent and fair operations and the appropriate and lawful use of financial resources obtained from taxpayers’ money. Given the facts known so far, there is a strong suspicion that the public money provided by the government as the sole owner of the agency to finance the public service was spent in a non-transparent manner and outside the permitted limits. Unfortunately, the director of STA Bojan Veselinovič, by refusing to control the operations and spending of money, endangers the operations of the agency and many jobs, which is unacceptable. “We would probably agree that it is unusual not to allow the owner the right to control, especially because in this case, when it comes to spending public money, control is a very sensitive issue. We all hope that this non-transparent behaviour will soon stop, that the Agency will be able to get rid of this burden,” Tomc pointed out and explained that among the major problems of the Slovenian media space are non-transparent ownership and large, probably legally inadmissible media concentrations. This was also pointed out by the European Commission in its first annual rule of law report. Slovenia will be at the helm of the European Union in a few days.
Interestingly, the Civicus report also states, among other things, that the right to peaceful assembly in Slovenia is endangered by the fact that the government completely banned protests during the pandemic. Immediately after that, it is contradictory added that people have been organising weekly anti-government protests on Friday since Janša came to power. Who is crazy here? According to their statements, the protesters were facing illegal and disproportionate sanctions, including fines of up to 10,000 euros. Well, after all, from the protests, the police, completely unjustly, removed only the Yellow Jackets – which were just standing still, with a banner in their hands. Their fine was a little less than 400 euros, and they allegedly earned it by violating public order. Even in the past, all fines were imposed for violating anti-corona ordinances during the epidemic, not for protesting. “Harassment of journalists online and offline comes not only from anonymous trolls, but from the highest political elites, including the Prime Minister. Although Slovenia is still high on media freedom indices on paper, the real experiences of journalists are uncertain, unpredictable and hostile,” said Špela Stare, Secretary General of the Slovenian Journalists’ Association. It is inconceivable how our activist opponents of the government, including the left opposition, would do anything just to get rid of Janša. At the moment, they and their European friends are trying to undermine the receiving of European funds – but at the same time they are not interested in the fact that Slovenia, which they are supposed to be so keen to deal with, will come off second best.