By Jakob Grubar
Freedom of the press (media) is guaranteed in the US as follows: The right, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to gather, publish, and distribute information and ideas without government restriction; this right encompasses freedom from prior restraints on publication and freedom from Censorship.
European definition is expected to be similar (EU is 200 years younger).
Dear Politico Editors:
The reference article is potentially a collection of gossip while missing the important verdict of the European Commissioner and Vice President Vera Jourova, ignoring the Economist’s democracy index, and failing to report on the news of the day. Politico has committed the worst sin of journalism, the sin of selective reporting also referred to as practicing due diligence. Such journalistic incompetence does not become a fine newspaper like Politico.
1. On the day of the publication of this article, the news of the day in Slovenia was that the current Slovenian Government with Mr. Janša as the Prime Minister received a Vote of Confidence in the parliament. Politico failed to report this fact. This fact, furthermore, makes a lie out of Politicoassertion that “Janša governs as part of an unstable multiparty coalition.”
2. A few months ago, the European Parliament held a session on Slovenian media for the benefit of the European Commissioner and Vice President Mrs. Jourova. Politico failed to report her findings while quoting often repeated truisms provided by the Commissioner’s press office about a year ago. Her findings in her own voice were:
(a)The media of all parties in the Slovenian parliament should have proportional financial support by the Slovenian government. The PM efforts to comply with the Commissioner’s recommendation exhibits as a lie the Politicostatement, “Janša’s moves directly contradict the EU’s standards on media freedom”. Did Politicoattend the hearing the subject of which is the article? If not, what are her updated and current sources that Politico takes pride in? Was the PM Janša the only person who understood the Honorable Commissioner Jourova?
(b)The transfer of capital within Europe is welcome even in the news media.In Slovenia, it was maybe 5 to 10 % at the beginning of 2021.
3. This year in January, the Economistagain published the democracy index. During the current and all previous Janša governments, the democracy index for Slovenia increased. Politico failed to report on this fact. Rather, Politicochose to repeat a colorful, personal opinion, with adjectives not included on any democracy scale, “Janša’s attitude toward Slovenia’s public media is not merely aggressive …, it is venomous,’ said a research analyst … “
4. What Politico did publish is a bunch of possibly hearsay and insinuations from 12 unhappy people. Has Politico become a note-taker for a gripe session? The fact that you do not provide names for these 12 media people gives credibility to the idea that the writer had to compose a filler piece when the main parliamentary story did not materialize to Politicoexpectations. As an illustrative point, my friends started to receive e-mails about a certain Slovenian’s imaginary prosecution before the Janša government was even sworn in on March 13, 2020. Everybody, including the composer of this article, is practicing the strategy to be the first to launch an accusatory attack so that they can attack without fearing any responses when the non-attacker defends himself. Hello, Politico, are you being used?
5. Politico failed to provide a source/quote for the statement, “Janša leads the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) … with an iron fist”.
6. Politico failed to find one “journalist, watchdog or academic” who would go on the record stating, “’ The campaign has had a toxic effect on media freedom in the southeast European country’, according to journalists, watchdogs, and academics.” By the way, Slovenia is in Central Europe. Southeast of Slovenia is Croatia, Southeast of Croatia is Bosnia and Hercegovina, Southeast is Montenegro, Southeast is Kosovo, Southeast is Macedonia, Southeast is Greece, Southeast is a sea.
West/southwest of Slovenia is Italy, west, and south of Italy is France, and west of France is the Atlantic Ocean, south of France is Spain, southwest of France and Slovenia is Portugal. South of Slovenia is Croatia, and south of Croatia is Italy.
The problem in obtaining confirmation of a colorful and poetic quote is exacerbated by its lack of meaning. I tried to interpret the phrase, “a toxic effect on media freedom”. According to transformational analysis in language construction, some words just do not go together. It is fashionable to call your emotional relationship toxic, and it is good to have media freedom, but the four words together are gibberish. The writer uses a plural form for three substantives, so six persons in Slovenia uttered pure nonsense, and the writer wrote this total nonsense into the article. Politico can do better!
Additionally, I wish to comment on Politico language use.
1. Politicouses a phrase mainstream media. What exactly is mainstream media? Is Politico’s terminology de fact betraying Politico’s belief that there is only one ideology represented in the great majority of media in Slovenia? I agree with this implicit statement because it shows that Slovenia has far to go before the plurality of opinions is achieved in the country’s media.
2. Politicouses 19 (nineteen) times the phrase “public media” to refer to the completely state- / taxpayer- / working people- /government-funded STA agency, Radio student (run by anything, but students), Radio Slo and TV Slo. These are the employers of intimidated, anonymous sources or possibly creative-writing contributions of the article author.
3. Public(media) is an incorrect adjective for these media, as the US – the largest group of native English-speaking people in the world, and thus the bearer of the language standard – introduced these adjectives for the Public Television Corporation and the National Public Radio Corporation, funded jointly by the government, businesses, and “contributions by people like you (meaning, everyone who wants to)”. Americans can contribute to programs they like, thus voting with their financial contributions. Meanwhile, every Slovenian household has to contribute to TV Slo under the penalty of the law, whether they watch the content or not. The media referred to in paragraph 2 above could be referred to as government-paid media, because they even fail to make money by advertising. I would say that the word public refers to something that everybody owns and uses, and everybody takes care of. Like parks, libraries, and freeways.
Finally, I want to provide some interesting information that your article slighted.
1. Politicois primarily a publication about politics, that is, the governance of people and administration of public funds. No state, no institution, and no organization can survive if its finances are not in order. The STA expects and receives funding without providing a yearly financial report, a contract requirement. Recently information was leaked that the Slovenian Press Agency was making monthly payments to some entity in South/ Latin America of over 5 thousand euros a month. The Slovenian Government is waiting in vain for the yearly financial information. This is not independence, but provocation that every father of a teenager has dealt with.
2. Politicoobserves for the TV director position that “…one of the candidates has now launched a lawsuit…” Politicoomitted to say that the previous director was fired for excessive, uncontrolled spending and amassing a staff of 2,500, not counting contract employees. This may be contrasted with Politicoin 2017 (latest data in Wikipedia) with 500 employees! The deposed director filed the suit. Slovenia has merely 2,000,000 inhabitants, that is about 1 Slo-TV-employee per 1000 men, women, and children. There does not exist another state-supported TV organization in the world that can boast such generous staffing, except maybe North Korea.
3. Politicoprovides a quote of an academic locked inside his ivory tower, “Janša … does not want to see any criticism of himself”. Prime Minister Janša is criticized daily by what Politico calls public media, private media, Twitter and Facebook users, and demonstrators on welfare who demand an ever-increasing share of public funds. Mr. Janša who is an experienced and wise politician accepts this situation because Mr. Janša is a leader, with character forged under most trying circumstances. No other human could tolerate this never-ending verbal abuse, that extends to the insults to his Mother, a well-accepted NoNoin politics and journalism alike.
4. “Janša’s Communist past…” formed Janša’s belief in freedom of the press. Mr. Janša was imprisoned as a civilian in a military court for his beliefs, in fear of what he would write(i.e., as a preventive measure, just like “crying wolf” by employees of public media outlets), as a journalist in Yugoslavia. AsPoliticocorrectly observes, quoting a confident public media manager, “Janša ‘cannot censor anyone and ‘has no real influence in mainstream media’.” Furthermore, Citizen Janša believes in freedom of the press and is upholding it as the Prime Minister.
Sadly, PM Janša cannot even implement the recommendations of Commissioner Jourova until the various supervisory bodies and the parliament so decide. Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy. Politico correctly reports, “Last summer, his (PM Janša’s) government proposed changes to the country’s media laws …” for this very purpose. Very likely, the employees of public media outlets would not be so concerned about their future if Jourova’s proposals were implemented already. Instead of having 2500 TV-Slo employees all report favorably about the position of the opposition parties, 1200 would continue promoting the opposition point of view. Meanwhile, 1300 would start reporting the point of view of the parties in the governing coalition, especially on those issues dealing with the prevention of the spread of the covid pandemic. Effectively, this is in practice in Italy.
In conclusion, I wish to share with you my honest perception that the whole article is an invention or an exercise in creative writing. It includes some exceptional word combinations that unfortunately make no sense. The number of O-my-Gosh-I-am-so-scared-please-withhold-my-name-so-my-children-do-not-go-hungry is somewhat less than the number 22, the number of signatories of “… an open letter published last October, 22 Slovenian editors warned that the country’s free press was in danger”. Why did the article author not interview these brave 22 free-press people, the heroes who dared to affix their name to their whining (after several fat paragraphs I still did not get to the gist of the letter) composition? Happily, they are still doing quite well after first suffering oppression in their exercise of the freedom of the press for the whopping nine months and receiving salary premium for working during covid pandemic (mostly fighting the government regulations and spreading misinformation) and then speaking publicly and internationally about it, in the face of the clear and present danger? The whole 120 days since their letter, they still have jobs and premium overpay, their children are still fed, and they still talk about the freedom of the press as if they knew what it means. There is something truly rotten in the Land of journalism when you have to quote a shaking, anonymous witness, while a loudmouth stands next to you telling you all and more about everything, starting with their name.
Within the last twelve months in Slovenia, there was only one newsperson physically attacked (the attack was recorded) and the person belongs to the “Janša’s allies’ (apostrophe added) pro-government news outlet.” He was attacked by a TV-Slo favorite performer and an activist against mask-wearing government policies.
Politico can publish an article with thousands of inventions and create quotes of terrified non-existent humans. By the number of paragraphs and rather scattered and incoherent presentation, I must admit that I first thought that the article was written by a computer program, generally referred to as artificial intelligence which nowadays does these kinds of things incredibly well. Especially the activist activities. At least the artificial intelligence would do better at following the rules of freshman journalism: first, you present the position of the party that you do not favor; then you present the position of the party that you favor; and finally, you are overwhelmed by the arguments in favor of your favorite party and voila! you conclude the argument in favor of your favored party. This development is missing in the article, maybe because of the lack of time between the parliamentary Vote of Confidence, the previous day, and the article publication at 4 am. The resulting concoction may be fun reading for some, but it is not journalism. Politicomay continues publishing its thousand variations, artificial intelligence, and an aspiring future journalist will always oblige.
The article was probably a collaboration of both. It would be expected that the artificial intelligence misses the cultural connotation of referring to somebody as a working woman(my euphemism for a whore), and it feels strange to have to explain it to a multicultural writer (Israeli and USA childhood and few years in Hungary, which strangely appears 6 times in the article about Slovenia. Does the writer have a problem focusing on the subject? The Artificial intelligence would not.) In the USA in the work environment, we also favor loyalty over the tendency of some people to change sides to the more profitable one, for immediate financial compensation associated with the world’s oldest profession. I have heard insinuations that a person (a man or a woman) is a whore, and therefore untrustworthy among my close collaborators, and such funny comments as that a person “is obviously a working woman, independently of their gender”.
In the definition of the freedom of the press (media) included at the beginning, I fail to detect any indications that it includes freedom to lie under the false pretenses of journalism. Thus, the lies, inventions, and concoctions are just that. It is therefore no surprise that the author already lost the newsperson’s credentials once. Politico will not change the situation in Slovenia: a vibrant, progressive, knowledge-, nature- and freedom-loving country that is day-by-day more appreciating the democracy (it is classified as having defective democracy, because of low standing of the judiciary branch of government, similar to the third-world country Mexico, rather than the executive branch under the leadership of PM Janša), freedom of expression and press, respect for freedom of others, and meritocracy.
I would really like to write an essay over the paragraph that starts with “The right…”. I am only going to assert that calling a Rat a rat is quite acceptable in the normal human discourse. Calling a Rat a dinosaur would be an exaggeration and thus could potentially be interpreted as inappropriate. To call a Rat a disgrace is a behavior of a loving, protecting Daddy.
A copy of the Letter is being sent to the Slovenian government, a few Slovenian investigative reporters, and the European Commissioner Jourova. The truth must and will prevail!
Thank you for giving your readers an opportunity to get informed by publishing this Letter.