By Jože Biščak and Vinko Vasle
Dear Věra Jourová, Vice-President of the European Commission and European Commissioner for Values and Transparency,
you recently mentioned Slovenia again in an online interview for the Presseclub Concordia, saying that critical journalists are allegedly intimidated. As reported by the 24ur portal (HERE), you also said: »When the media are in trouble, our democracies are also in trouble. We need to step up our efforts to support journalists.«
You also point out that political and economic pressure on independent journalists and independent media outlets is intensifying in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia. We do not know exactly what you mean by the word »independent«; we believe that all media are »dependent« on their readers and listeners, but it is true that so far it has been the practice that some »independent« media have been accustomed to be published without the laws of the market, which means that they were issued even though the costs of sales and advertisements were not sufficient to financially cover the business. We have a feeling that you think that the media in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia are endangered only because the Conservative parties won the elections. This is automatically bad for you who support the ideology of liberal democracy, isn’t it? We are convinced that democracy in Poland, Hungary and Slovenia is in good shape, that all governments are legitimate, that their ideologies and values are also legitimate. The only »problem« is that some media outlets, together with non-governmental organizations that, as a rule, support »independent« media, are cut off from taxpayers’ money and are no longer glued to taxpayers’ money. And then they cry and moan because they have to survive in the market.
Since we do not want to be a lawyer for Poland and Hungary – both countries know how to respond to your unfounded accusations on their own – we will comment a little on your thinking about Slovenia.
We will start at the end. What does »our democracies« mean? Are democracies divided into »ours« and »yours«? What is the characteristic of »our« democracy? What you are saying is democracy or what? Come on!
Let’s be clear. The basis for any democracy is freedom, especially freedom of speech, so that everyone can say what they think. This freedom is protected by the constitution in all democratic states. We hope that we all agree that freedom also guarantees democracy. On the other hand, democracy does not automatically mean freedom. This can be observed today mainly in Western democracies, which were once the model of communist countries (including Slovenia), but today freedom in these countries is rapidly limited (both economic, personal and other freedom).
Let’s move on. Democracy is merely a form of government, it is merely an organizational form in a country. Democracy is therefore a system, a form and a way of governing. We know several democracies, all in a row democratic: from parliamentary to presidential democracy.
In Slovenia (and most European countries) we have parliamentary democracy. This means that different parties are fighting for power with different programs and different ideologies. In free and democratic elections, people decide which political party to vote for in accordance with their values and principles. It is customary for the government to be formed by the winner of the election. In Slovenia, it was first formed by the losers (their election program was only one – against Janez Janša, president of the SDS party). Last year they resigned and Slovenia got a center-right government. For the current coalition partners we can say that the SMC is the center party, NSi is the center-right Christian democratic party, SDS, which is the largest coalition party and its president Janez Janša is also the prime minister, is a conservative-liberal party (conservative by values, liberal in principle by economy). The coalition came to power in a democratic way, and its orientation is also democratic.
So what is »our democracy« now? It is obvious, as can be seen from your opinion, that the Slovenian government (especially its largest political party) does not advocate »true« democracy. And what is true democracy? According to the prevailing opinion, the only true democracy (obviously also yours, but certainly for the vast majority, as much as 90 percent of the Slovenian media) is liberal democracy. All others are labeled »false« democracies because they do not have a liberal-democratic ideology in their programs. In your opinion, which is unfortunately shared by most Brussels officials, it would be best to have a liberal-democratic one-mindedness. You are wrong. Conservatism is a completely equal and legitimate ideology like any liberal ideology on your side. The SDS was declared the winner of the elections by the voters who voted for her. Do you deny voters the legitimacy of independent decision-making and thinking with their own head? You seem to think so.
And about allegedly intimidated journalists in Slovenia. Can you be specific? Which of the journalists was intimidated, who received threats from the authorities, how many journalists are imprisoned for reporting or expressing views? Let us tell you again what we have already written: journalists are completely safe in Slovenia. No one endangers their lives, they freely share their ideas and opinions, they are guaranteed the right to write and express anything. However, they will have to get used to the angry and sharp reaction of the public caused by their reporting and writing, which is full of manipulations and lies. Above all, they will have to learn that the criticized can criticize backwards. It is the last sentence that is true freedom and true democracy, these are the circumstances in which I want to live: to express my opinions freely and to be criticized back for my opinion. Also by the authorities. However, if there has ever been intimidation, we, conservative journalists, have been subjected to it when former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec »recommended« to the management of state-owned companies not to advertise in the media he does not like (allegedly due to the spread of intolerance). At that time, no one from Brussels came forward, which is a shame. Above all, it says a lot about the prevailing and only salvific »our« ideology today, that is, the ideology of liberal democracy, which obviously – this is now clear and provable – is the only one that brings freedom and totalitarianism.
Your views and opinions are distinctly one-sided and although you once promised to respect and take into account the other side of the coin as well, this did not happen. We, the undersigned, are long-term journalists who fought for journalistic professional freedom already in the former regime of the common communist state of Yugoslavia. That is why we know very well what the right principles, morals and ethics are in journalism and what is the vile agitprop that was once staged by the Communist Party in our country, but is now unfortunately performed by, as they call themselves, proud successors. This, of course, is not journalism because it is full of untruths, even lies and ideological propaganda. And because it is party-politically instrumentalized in order to discredit individuals with well-known methods, including media assassinations by invading privacy. Thus, in the last twenty years, the once reputable media have turned into a political machinery, and journalists into propagandists of one political option. From professional ethical journalism, this is further than from Earth to Mars.
In these media, it is often not clear what the position of the editor, journalist and media is and what the information is. It has gone so far that even the well-known principles of journalism »information is sacred, comment is free« no longer hold. And that the media-acceptable interlocutors are from only one political option and the others are second-rate overlooked. This is the source of frequent discontent not only among some politicians, but also among a large part of the public, especially if it is done by the public media RTV Slovenia, which is increasingly »privately owned« by the extreme left political space.
Such journalists and media respond loudly to any criticism by bombing the domestic and foreign public that this is an attack on democracy, journalistic freedom and an attack on the »division« of power between the media and politics. But this is what the media, which is most closely associated with its political elite, is rumbling about. By doing so, they deliberately create the impression that these journalists are life-threatening, although we have recently recorded only one such case – when during the rampage of so-called covid idiots in Ljubljana, an extreme leftist physically attacked a photojournalist and seriously injured him, while the other journalist and police officer was only kicked. There was no particular outrage in these media, if subtract that the public RTVS put in front of the cameras a well-known convicted criminal and dealer, who recommended real journalists to have visible markings on themselves so that they would not be wrongly kicked and beaten.
In addition to all this, it is most sad and worrying that the Slovenian Journalists’ Association uses double standards when it comes to assessing the conduct of individual journalists and the media. It is an exclusive journalistic association of the left pole, which, in case of disagreement with individual views and opinions of the other side, uses the most vile method – it reports journalists to the public prosecutor’s office, which of course should not be their task. Some public prosecutors are also contributing to all this political madness, declaring dangerous death threats to the politicians of right-wing provenance a normal response by individuals because they suffer mentally because of these politicians. The media we are talking about, of course, absolutely support this and, for example, did not problematize the threat to the Minister of the Interior that he is a »dog that needs to be liquidated«, because the prosecutor did not recognize anything worth mentioning.
The truth, of course, is that in Slovenia not only politicians are attacked, but also journalists and their media who resist such a journalistic and left-wing »culture«. Criticism at the expense of their unprofessionalism, however, is quickly declared to be even a physical threat, which is without any argument.
Dear Vera Jourova, we are sorry that, as a European Commissioner who should not be ideologically publicly defined, for your sources of information on the situation in Slovenia you exclusively use (otherwise known to us) certain sources and writers, which is completely unacceptable in terms of your function.
See what »our« journalists who are advocating for »our« democracy are promoting in the video below.
Jože Biščak is the editor-in-chief of the conservative-oriented magazine Demokracija, president of the Slovenian Association of Patriotic Journalists and author of the books Zgodbe iz Kavarne Hayek, Zapisi konservativnega liberalca and Potovati z Orwellom.
Vinko Vasle is a longtime journalist and editor, former director of the national Radio Slovenia and the author of several novels, including Purgarji, Darovalec, Arhivar, Prva hiša na Marsu and Pisma podpore in upora.