By: Anamarija Novak
What happened was that the Prime Minister and president of the Gibanje Svoboda party, Robert Golob, directly confirmed that the journalists of the Necenzurirano portal are not only the media wing of his party and the government he leads, but also his personal journalistic praetorian guard…
So, we were able to read a note on Twitter by journalist and editor Bojan Požar, who warned that “necenzurirano journalists took over all the key information points in the country overnight”. It is now clear to everyone that it is one of the most bizarre stories about the incestuous connection between the media and Golob’s government, and even the Necenzurirano.si website itself was sacrificed for the final takeover of the media.
Barbutovski is moving to Golob’s cabinet
We warned that last Wednesday may have been one of the most watershed days so far, at least as far as Golob’s government is concerned. Namely, it appointed a new director, actually the director of the Office of the Government of the Republic of Slovenia for Communication (Ukom), which was headed by Dragan Barbutovski from the time the current government took office until now. Barbutovski is known for his unlucky communication on Twitter, on which he serially blocked a whole bunch of people, similar to the Minister for Digital Transformation Emilija Stojmenova Duh. “In the pre-election campaign, the parties that make up the government warned about the harmfulness of hate speech in political discourse, and in addition to other bodies, it is Ukom that must pay more attention to this issue. Therefore, for acting Director of Ukom, the Prime Minister proposed Petra Bezjak Cirman, former journalist of RTV Slovenia and now professional president of RTV Slovenia’s workers’ council and member of RTV Slovenia’s supervisory board as employee representative. The government is expected to decide on the replacement of Ukom’s director in the coming days. In the future, Dragan Barbutovski will be employed in the office of the Prime Minister in the field of communication with the international public,” the Prime Minister’s office answered to the question of whether Barbutovski’s “outages” on Twitter hindered his replacement.
He foolishly threatened and blocked
Let’s remember. One of Barbutovski’s first “Twitter excesses” was when he threatened a user of the social network that he would report her and that Twitter would block her – namely, he characterised her opinion on the verdict of the Constitutional Court as spreading hate speech. “Homosexuality is not a disease. You will be reported to Twitter and blocked for spreading hate speech. Best regards,” he wrote at the time, putting himself in the role of a government censor. This was followed by a streak of blocking – the then acting Director of Ukom blocked virtually all Twitter users who were not in his favour in any way. When Bojan Požar caught him in a lie, he, of course blocked him too – but then he realised that it would be easiest if he closed his profile to the public. “The official profile of the government must not be limited to only the chosen ones, especially not in times of crisis,” former minister Matej Lahovnik commented on the move at the time. But that was not all, among other things, Barbutovski also retweeted Golob’s now famous English interview, in which he called the inhabitants of the Western Balkan countries Russophile and thereby indirectly accused the leaders of these countries of conducting politics against the will of their citizens. Instead of calling his boss Robert Golob and advising him to refrain from such statements, he even retweeted him and added: “Welcome to listen.” Barbutovski was not interested in the content, but rather wanted to praise Golob, saying how well he speaks English.
All this probably contributed to the withdrawal of Barbutovski from the position of director of Ukom. Last Wednesday, therefore, the government announced that Petra Bezjak Cirman, who is the representative of employees in the programme council of RTV Slovenia (!), will become the director of Ukom. She is the wife of Primož Cirman, the “independent” editor of the Necenzurirano portal. The information that the “necenzurirano connection” is taking over key information flows in the country came to light almost immediately after it was announced – and about which we have already written in Demokracija – that another of the creators of the same portal, Vesna Vuković , is leaving for the position of spokesperson for Gibanje Svoboda, while last week it became clear that the third of the aforementioned trio, Tomaž Modic, will become an expert associate of the investigative commission, which will deal with the right-wing media and their supposedly suspicious connections with politics and (foreign) capital. As is known, the commission will be headed by former journalist and now “Golob’s” MP Mojca Pašek Šetinc.
Incest personnel carousel
But this is not the end of the personnel carousel between the government and the media, as there were also rumours, confirmed by Prime Minister Robert Golob himself, that Primož Cirman will probably take over the management of the Siol.net portal this fall. “Primož Cirman is one of the best, if not the best, investigative journalist in Slovenia. If he ever wants to, I will take him to work anywhere,” Prime Minister Robert Golob commented on the unofficial information that a journalist from the Necenzurirano portal Primož Cirman was to become the editor-in-chief of the Siol portal, according to Delo newspaper. This will lead to the political takeover of the aforementioned portal, but even before that, the general assembly of Telekom Slovenija must take place, at which the appointment of a new supervisory board and then the management board will almost certainly take place. As a result, this will also affect the replacement of the management of TS Media, which manages the Siol portal; the latter is now edited by Peter Jančič. The general meeting was announced already at the beginning of the summer, and it seems that the notorious Borut Jamnik will strengthen his influence in Telekom’s management bodies. Let’s remember. It was Borut Jamnik who was the key godfather of the aforementioned “necenzurirano” trio in recent years. This especially applies to Vuković, who gained her first experience at Dnevnik (in tandem with Suzana Rankov), then together with Modic and Cirman for some time at the Siol portal and then at the Nenzurirano portal, but she was actually on Robert Golob’s payroll – during his time leading Gen-I. At least since 2018, as Bojan Požar writes. The latter also pointed out the media spin spread by the regime’s media, saying that the sawed off acting the director of Ukom, Dragan Barbutovski, resigned because he wanted to work as an official, according to the rules of communication, while the government allegedly demanded more political engagement from him. Well, as we mentioned, Barbutovski got a new job right in Golob’s cabinet, where he is supposed to take care of international communication, and evil tongues claim that, based on his practice on Twitter, he could isolate Slovenia internationally in terms of communication.
The garbage portal is going to the media dump
The online portal Necenzurirano, however, was apparently an ad hoc project created which the garbage tycoon Martin Odlazek was supposed to finance only until the elections, regardless of the outcome. This means that after the elections, the completely responsible portal is clearly going to the media dump, because it will obviously no longer be needed, at least not from the time when Cirman will start editing Siol. And to make the media takeover scene even more bizarre, as you have already read, Prime Minister Golob himself called Cirman “the best investigative journalist in the country”. Which is incredibly bizarre to say the least – if the previous Prime Minister Janez Janša had called, say, Bojan Požar the best investigative journalist in the country, there would have been a general strike within a few hours. However, the journalistic community, which is one way or another tied to Golob’s government and its parties, just giggles indulgently at the completely understandable rolling of the eyes that comes from the opposition ranks.
“Independent” Mojca Šetinc Pašek
At the same time, it should be remembered that the SDS parliamentary group demanded that Tomaž Modic, a journalist of the portal Necenzurirano.si, be removed from the parliamentary investigative commission chaired by the “independent” Mojca Šetinc Pašek, as his participation in the commission would mean that he would be in a blatant conflict of interest. However, SDS is no longer the only party that disagrees with his participation in the commission. Even the president of the Association of Journalists of Slovenia (DNS) Petra Lesjak Tušek and full-time professor at FDV Marko Milosavljević, who have been prominent supporters of the left, are now warning that the decision is controversial. They are convinced that such a decision would undermine the credibility of the journalistic portal, but it is also controversial from an ethical point of view, as it is about losing the distance between the journalistic profession and work in a paid service by a political institution such as the National Assembly. The president of DNS also shared her disappointment on Facebook when she realised that Golob’s promises about the “depoliticisation” of the public media were empty, especially when quite a few “independent” journalists came under his wing in such a short period of time, and he announced there are even more transfers.
Golob’s personal guards
Thus, we can agree with Požar’s thesis, which we highlighted in the introduction – that the journalists of the portal Necenzurirano.si are not only the media wing of his party Gibanje Svoboda and the government he leads, but also his personal journalistic praetorian guard. After all, even before the start of the official pre-election campaign, Primož Cirman led public stands where Robert Golob appeared as the main hero. As reported by Požareport, Vesna Vuković is said to have proposed Modic for work in the parliamentary investigative commission, “who, as we know, has actually been secretly working for Golob for a long time, and Vuković and Modic are said to be the authors of the text of the decision to establish this commission”. Either way, even Russia’s notorious autocrat Vladimir Putin could learn a lot from this kind of incestuous connection between the media and politicians. Now the only question is who will cover the debts (including tax) of the Necenzurirano portal and clean up its blocked accounts. This is also why the government was in such a hurry to replace the director of Furs… At the same time, it is also worth remembering that already in 2020, they tried to sell TS Media following the example of Planet TV, which is now owned by Hungarians. But apparently the Siol portal remains part of the “national interest”. So, we are in for a hot political autumn and, of course, attempts to silence all media that are not part of the government’s propaganda apparatus.