After the Slovenian Association of Journalists actively engaged in the sharp antigovernmental fight and tried to create the impression of being the defenders of the media plurality and freedom, the Association of Journalists and Publicists of Slovenia (Združenje novinarjev in publicistov – ZNP) decided to face the opposition and the radical non-governmental organizations with the truth, explaining what the current state of affairs in the media space is really like. “The main problem with the Slovenian media is the lack of pluralism. The media sphere is characterized by a strong imbalance – this applies to both the printed and the online media – because most of them more or less openly favor the political left,” ZNP warned.
The Association of Journalists and Publicists of Slovenia has pointed out that the official government dispatch regarding the state of affairs in the Slovenian media space, which was published on the Council of Europe’s online Platform for the Freedom of Expression, in response to the alarming reports of alleged Government pressure on journalists, has provoked some very heated backlash from the dominant media outlets and certain parts of the political sphere. “However, no matter what one thinks of the political (in)appropriateness of such an approach, the content of the dispatch is factually quite accurate and highlights some of the key problems of the Slovenian media space, which we at ZNP have previously already warned about in our reports on the situation in the Slovene media space,” they pointed out.
The left-wing political forces control most of the country’s capital and are also controlling the media politics through it
The ZNP emphasized that the main problem with the Slovenian media is the lack of pluralism, and the fact that the media sphere is characterized by a strong imbalance – this applies to both the printed, as well as the online media because most of them more or less openly favor the political left. “It is a fact that political forces that emerged from the previous communist regime, along with their ideological followers, have practically interruptedly been in control of the economic, judicial, and media domains in the country, including the public broadcaster RTV Slovenia, even after the fall of the dictatorship. The peculiarity of Slovenia among other democratic countries is also that the left-wing political forces control most of the country’s capital, and through it, they also control the media policies.”
The journalists who, during the previous undemocratic regime, formally served the only party that was allowed to exist, the Communist Party, or were even part of the secret police, later became the editors and the executives of many media outlets. “In recent years, it became evident that the dominant media have been following the political agenda of the left-wing parties as much as possible, including those parties that were in total control of the media in the previous undemocratic system as well. In practice, this is reflected in the orchestrated launch of new faces into the left-wing political parties, which are always supported by the mainstream media. Acting in the best interest of the left-wing political parties is also evident during electoral confrontations when the main topics are always the ones that fit the interests and the political agenda of the left-wing parties. There is a great disparity in the selection of guests on politically-themed shows. There are obvious examples of the media’s loyalty to a single political option. These media also constantly harass or even dismiss those journalists, including the members of our association, who act autonomously. And other journalists, who are committed to the mainstream ideas, are rewarded and gain even more influence, despite their severe slip-ups and corruptive risks,” ZNP explained their position.
What is particularly problematic, is the obvious bias of the national media outlet RTV
In the past, we could see how the majority of the media, being controlled by the political left, have been repeatedly misused for dealing with the political opponents from the center-right politics. There is also a strong controversy between the political actors who have been victims of media lynching, and the media workers or media outlets who were involved in the lynching in one way or another, ZNP warns. “We do not approve of such controversies; however, we want to point out that in order to understand the media situation in Slovenia, it is necessary to know and be aware of at least the basic historical facts of the not-so-distant past.”
“Everything that we have mentioned has already been shown by empirical research (Study of the Media Freedom and Autonomy of the Media Space in the Republic of Slovenia in 2007, Freedom of the Media in Slovenia in 2008). What is particularly problematic is the obvious bias of the public media, especially the national media outlet RTV, whose activities are funded by all citizens, no matter what their political and world views are like.”
The bias was very obvious when Janez Janša’s third Government was confirmed, which, due to the coronavirus epidemic, started its term in a much more difficult situation than its predecessors. We are witnessing a situation in which the most radical journalists of the dominant media outlets which are controlled by the leftists (including some of the most influential editors and journalists of RTV Slovenia) are openly and completely unprofessionally expressing their political views on social networks and are openly agitating against the new Government.
Hand in hand with the opposition, the media is fighting a fight against the current Government
According to ZNP, we are also witnessing a situation in which it is more important to dissect every individual statement or minor slip-up than actually inform the public; a situation in which it seems that the media, hand in hand with the opposition, is fighting some sort of a fight with the Government, instead of fighting the coronavirus. “This situation is worrying and shows that the so-called dominant media, including the public service broadcasters, are often told how to respond to certain developments that are not in line with the leftist ideology.” They also pointed out that the independence of the media is being tested. “Because the media shapes the citizens’ perceptions of political and social events and assesses the value of political actors and other stakeholders, such behavior and the lack of media pluralism are causes for a distorted and biased public perception.”
The low level of professionalism of the journalists and other media producers, which is directly associated with their high degree of politicization, is also a problem. “Many of them act as if they are political activists and/or ideological agitators, promoting a particular ideology and/or political agenda, rather than provide relevant information to the citizens.”
The bias of the journalists and, consequently, of the media outlets, is not only caused by the ownership of the media but also by the system, they pointed out. “In the past, the Ministry of Culture has paid too little attention to supporting independent media outlets. Similarly, the journalists and publicists cannot obtain the status of a freelance cultural worker, even though other professions, such as a cinematographer and a puppet designer/technologist, belong to this group of freelance cultural workers, due to scarcity. The failure to classify journalism as a freelance profession is an obvious anomaly in this area. And the so-called media calls do not eliminate the anomaly, but – just the opposite – reinforce the existing cartel-like situation.”