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Thursday, July 25, 2024

Dr Jože Možina is publicly answering to the ombudswoman for the rights of viewers and listeners, who succumbed to the pressure of Kučan’s circle: “Was any untruth found in the comment? It was not!”

By: M.B.

TV Slovenia journalist and doctor of historical sciences Dr Jože Možina responded to the unprofessional opinion of the ombudswoman for the rights of viewers and listeners Marica Uršič Zupan. Her opinion was written based on a complaint by Špela Furlan, the right-hand woman of the last head of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Slovenia, Milan Kučan, and the first president of the Republic of Slovenia.

His public letter to the programming council of RTV Slovenia and the Slovenian public is published in full:

TO THE PROGRAMME COUNCIL OF RTV SLOVENIA AND THE PUBLIC

REJECTION OF THE REPORT OF THE OMBUDSWOMAN OF THE VIEWERS’ RIGHTS IN THE CASE OF UTRIP-DRAŽGOŠE

Dear programme councillors of RTV Slovenia,

I am negatively surprised by the tendentious records of the ombudswoman for the rights of viewers and listeners, Marica Uršič Zupan, with allegations of violations/errors in the commentary show Utrip, published on January 15th, 2022. Her text (https://www.rtvslo.si/varuh/mnenja-in-priporocila/porocilo-o-zadevi-utrip-drazgose/613598) is written from almost the same starting points and in a similar biased spirit, even with the same phrases, as the previous ombudswoman wrote her reports on my broadcasts. In several cases, she proved to be unprofessional and politically motivated, which is unequivocally evident from the analysis of one of the cases (https://www.glasno.si/post/vsebina_moti_centre_moci).

I am asking the programme councillors to pay attention to the mentioned report of the current ombudswoman and reject it due to unprofessionalism or bias. I give the arguments for this below.

A large part of the Slovenian public, which pays the RTV contribution, is outraged by the lack of pluralism on RTV. And when, after a long time, in the most watched time zone, a 15-minute commentary appears with different but professionally justified considerations, the ombudswoman, instead of welcoming the positive shift, puts herself in the role of the public already spoiled by a one-sided view of the world and which is upset by a different, though flawless, commentary text. Well, heaven help us! And at the same time, the Ombudswoman is not interested in the facts that are stated in Utrip show and are also the main subject of complaints of some viewers. No, consciously, or deliberately, she goes into the nitpicking of commentary – that journalistic form that is absolutely the most free. To put it simply – everything is allowed in a comment, but what does not belong in a serious comment are lies, insults, vulgarities.

The ombudswoman is therefore – despite the fact that it is a comment, descending on slippery terrain of genre suitability, where she slips a lot. The complainants were disturbed by the content and even if it was a combination of form, only the content could be the subject of serious consideration. Was any untruth found in the comment? It was not. The ombudswoman instead deals with genre suitability, which is misplaced in this case. She broadly avoids judging what is essential in each contribution of the news programme: ARE THE FACTS STATED IN THE COMMENTARY TRUE OR NOT, AND IF NOT, WHAT IS FALSE? Given that the Ombudswoman’s five-page text on my comment is without this basic assessment, I conclude that this is unfortunately a case of a unilaterally motivated report, which runs counter to the Ombudswoman’s mission. I call on the Programme Council to resolutely protect free and historical journalism and to reject this and similar reports. Viewers, all those without prejudice to the unpleasant truth, had the privilege in this case, as the author of Utrip show is a historian with a doctorate and a connoisseur of the subject. And that was the added value of the show.

The ombudswoman’s text is so weak, contradictory, and unsubstantiated that a broader substantive response is needed. Has Ms. Uršič Zupan overlooked what is a good commentary and what is a top, also brave, and argumentative authorial form, which manifested itself in Utrip on January 15th, 2022, and is a surplus in this respect? This Utrip will, regardless of current reports, insults, and political attacks, remain an example of an excellent show/commentary that can be achieved by a few authors on TVS with a combination of image, words, and professional behaviour. As the author of this Utrip, I am also a journalist of public television with by far the most awards at home and abroad, I am aware of my responsibilities. But this responsibility goes first to the public and within it to those groups that are ignored, as the voice of the people of Dražgoše, who survived the tragedy of their village, and have been ignored in all these decades. And they think differently and have the right to say so. I would expect the ombudswoman to understand and support this. I hope that in the future she will be able to discern and support what is good and courageous. I reckon that the RTV Programme Council will also – by rejecting the ombudswoman’s report – strongly support ideological pluralism, which is a major problem in many RTV programmes.

Regarding the content of my comment, the ombudswoman writes that she is not competent for it, but at the same time she does not trust the author, who has a doctorate in recent history from the Faculty of Arts and has known and researched the Dražgoše tragedy for more than 20 years. In fact, I am among the few and the only TV journalist to record testimonies there. And then, if I understand correctly the ombudsman’s awkwardly written report, at the point where the material of the commentary reaches the field of history, I should suppress my knowledge and avoid it because of the problems of “genre” … In other words, is it preferable to use self-censorship, the silence of historical knowledge and the peaceful summing up of the performances of those who explain what happened 80 years ago at the level of old children’s picture books and work with the supporting media as if historical science has not advanced? Of course, this is out of the question. We, the creators of public television, are not paid to adapt to the mainstream media, which is otherwise more comfortable and does not bring any problems. Free journalism is something else – it tackles all topics, especially those that bring new important insights. Regardless of the strength of those who oppose the truth and regardless of the weakness/opportunism of those who should defend free plural journalism.

One of the points of criticism in the ombudswoman’s note is the alleged problem of content coherence, which is a kind of novelty for me when it comes to commentary. In the show, I captured and commented on the weekly events and commented on them, enriching them with additional context. Viewers learned more and not less. Finally, the form of the commentary allows the author a free choice of topics, this is even written in the design of the show, and this is considered and understood by everyone in free journalism. I also understand that the opponents of the truth about the Dražgoše tragedy will never accept the facts, but I do not understand that the ombudswoman has a great deal of understanding for them, even though they are at odds with the facts, which can be verified. But the ombudswoman is not interested in the facts, or she did not check them. Well, we are here. For deniers of the facts, every word about the painful truth is superfluous. Would these same criticisms be bothered if we showed footage of the 1944 Home Guard Oath, or those from the 80s that would compromise any of the spring politicians (because it was happening in Utrip shows)? Of course not. The ombudswoman has consciously artificially established the problem of content design here, although we all know that totalitarian adherents are only hurt by the demonstrably real content and nothing else. And above all, regardless of the free authorial form of Utrip, the content of the show from 15.1.22. is completely in line with the weekly events, where the most important event was the great mass in Dražgoše with Milan Kučan, who revealed what fascism is. The step in the direction of historical memory – the publication of statements by locals that contradict the statements of Milan Kučan – is, of course, accurate and surpassed in this context. He is also necessary and honest to the people who suffered and to the Slovenian public, which was constantly being lied to and hidden things from. I do not know the reason/instructions to help cover up the undisputed facts further? Therefore, I have a letter of a Dražgoše citizen, who experienced the tragedy and begins with the words: “We are immensely grateful to you…”, and the expertly substantiated letter of the historical association, which confirms the historical facts, which has inappropriately more weight than critics, including those who have benefits and privileges from revolutionary work, such as the high representative of the former president of Kučan, Špela Furlan, who also complained, and the ombudswoman complied. There is another trap in this story. Complainants are anonymous, which allows the guardian to be manipulated. I found out that Ms Furlan was the complainant by accident when she praised the ombudswoman in her letters to the readers. I suggest the Programme Council to avoid blind thinking and ensure that the complainants appear with full names, which is normal for a democratic society.

The ombudswoman’s argument that Dražgoše ran out of time for other weekly events is particularly frivolous and self-censoring. What events? Where is this prescribed, in which code? This is where the guardian’s distinct bias was revealed. With these accusations, she failed the test of understanding journalistic freedom and the genre of commentary. It is interesting that she tries to impose new substances for judgment – “genre coherence”, which was also the mantra of the former source of SDV in this position.

The ombudswoman is even more biased than the author’s alleged violation of 9.6. in 9.10. points of professional criteria and principles of journalistic ethics, “which talk about the use of material from documentation and archives and stipulate that archival material must be clearly marked or identified so that it is clear that it is not fresh footage”. This finding is in complete inconsistency with the real course of the broadcast. The author did not “sell” any of the used recordings as fresh but arranged the text in the context of his commentary in terms of content and not chronologically. This is clear to the viewer, even to those who accuse him of this were not “manipulated”, they only accuse him of this because they cannot do anything else. The ombudswoman, interestingly and crucially – does not cite any complaint where any of the complainants would have written that he was misled and that he thought it was fresh footage. Thus, there is no basis at all for any violation to occur. But the ombudswoman, Ms. Uršič Zupan, still followed the path of critics who have no real but only ideological motivation, based on the requirement that certain topics and burdens of communist rule on public RTV should not be freely problematised.

Such is the case when Ms. Špela Furlan, the High Representative of Milan Kučan, complained to the ombudswoman about my Utrip, who, as mentioned, now satisfactorily notes in the letters of the readers the following: “The ombudswoman agrees with me”. That says it all. Špela Furlan did not complain about what was said in the comment at the expense of her protégé Mr. Kučan, because she just cannot. So, she preferred to get involved in the insignificant – saying that she felt manipulated when recording the SD summit tribute to Boris Kidrič, because she does not know when it happened. Of course, this is a transparent disregard for a person from the high politics of the left bloc. The point in this commentary is not when it happened, but that it happened and who the actors of this tribute were. All that would be left is transparent ignorance, but the ombudswoman obediently listens to the former president’s representative and builds her controversial report on that.

And I point out again: at the only point where the show stands and falls – that is, on the assessment of the facts told in the show – the ombudswoman avoids responsibility, invoking her ignorance when she writes: “These allegations were manipulation for some, truth for others. In this regard, the ombudswoman can only assess whether the author has substantiated the comment with logical justifications or facts, which according to journalistic standards he is obliged to do – which he did – but he has neither the relevant knowledge nor the authority to verify whether the facts hold true.”

Of course, I understand that the ombudswoman does not have the necessary knowledge in this area, but a month was more than enough to check the concrete “allegations for one manipulation for others truth” and write down the results. If she were to limit herself to easily verifiable facts in the professional literature, she would of course have to find that all the above is true. However, she did not do what was essential, and thus fatally compromised her entire mission to deal with Utrip show from 15.1. 2022.

A new disappointment in the ombudswoman’s perception of the difficult topic is the accusation that Utrip 15.1.22 did not “subtly and comprehensively” deal with the topic, saying that this show does not allow it, because “it is not designed to allow accurate, impartial, credible, and comprehensive presentation of the topic. Therefore, I believe that the genre show Utrip is not appropriate for a topic that has divided viewers so much, but it would be more appropriate to deal with this topic in the genre of a transparent TV article or round table, which is much longer, includes a wider range of opinions and presents the topic in a balanced and comprehensive way.” This is nonsense. In most of the shows, and in this one, every important topic can be addressed, and in this show, this was done in a professional way. According to the logic of the ombudswoman, practically nothing that “separates viewers” should be disclosed, and it is the fault of the genre, which of course is never appropriate in such cases when supporters of the previous regime are bothered by unfavourable content. These are big slips in the perception of journalistic work, which go in the direction of (self)censorship. If we found that all the historical facts in Utrip are true, no one has proven the opposite, then we cannot talk about the separation of viewers but about quality journalistic commentary, where the author of a fake historical myth confronts the historical truth. In this part of the report, the ombudswoman repeats, transcribes the formulations of the former ombudswoman, who condemned the show Intervju with Dr Jože Dežman, which I did in the summer of 2018. Like that current Utrip, that show was based only on verifiable facts, which greatly upset the Association of Fighters or supporters of the former totalitarian regime. Even then, the big problem was the inappropriate “genre”, read the painful content for all those who are overwhelmed by the truth about the totalitarian regime. But what was said then and now still holds true.

Therefore, I would like to ask the ombudswoman – what specifically in the show Utrip from 15.1.22 on the topic of Dražgoše was not accurate, credible, comprehensive? The ombudswoman repeats the mantra of the Fighters’ Union, saying that it is a topic that divides viewers. The truth is not important, the moment lesser-known historical facts are revealed, the “genre” is not right. I do not know what the ombudswoman noticed, but the viewers who wrote to me, and there were hundreds of them, pointed out the very sensitive and at the same time journalistic freedom and truth-bound preparation of the commentary. The ombudswoman writes that this topic could be discussed in a television article. It could and it should, I do not mind. I have already done this in the show Tednik and in Pričevalci, and we also have dozens of journalists who can do it in some other way.

In my experience, whenever it comes to formulations that the genre is not appropriate, that a date has been missing, that time has run out for other topics, RTV contributors who want a more plural public medium must cling to wallets, as these are usually attempts of institutional slander, silencing those journalists who know and are able to say even what others keep silent, do not know or do not want to know, but what interests the viewers. In such a situation, with such biased reports acting as pressure against autonomous journalistic reporting even in comments, it is hard to work. The programme council has an important role to play in ending these pressures. RTV Slovenia must balance itself, not walk the path towards one-mindedness, which is obviously more convenient for many.

It saddens and surprises me that the ombudswoman, like her predecessor, also makes personally offensive comments in the report, which may be the subject of a lawsuit. I would expect her to nip such letters in the bud, as not everyone can say what they think and then summarise it in a report. Such an example in her report are excerpts from criticism/insults: “A journalist, as many times before, falsifies history and glorifies traitors during the National Liberation War. He does not understand the chronological sequence, as he states the reasons that will only happen at a certain historical moment. Unprofessional, illogical, and biased. Shameful!” (T. V.) “Incorrect information about Dražgoše. Revisionism. Contempt for Partisanship.” (J. M.). At no point is there any evidence for these personal discretizations, which the ombudswoman states in the report online without comment, without deciding or asking/checking if what they were claiming was true. The ombudswoman also cites several different, positive opinions about the show Utrip, which prevailed in the responses, many of which came to my address and to the address of the RTV management. I will not mention these, although the ombudswoman does not internalise them in her narrow simplification of understanding of the subject, she only states them.

This is a link to the show Utrip from 15.1.2022 on the RTV Slovenia website https://365.rtvslo.si/arhiv/utrip/174839845, which achieved a record number of views, which is about 20 times more views than the other Utrip on average, which shows that viewers want interesting, real content, even one that is hidden from the public. I will continue to work in this direction in the future. I expect that the Programme Council will support free journalism and reject the ombudswoman’s report, which has no substantive basis but follows the interest of a policy that stems from party unanimity.

Dr Jože Možina, journalist of TV Slovenia

author of the comment – Utrip from 15.1.2022

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