By Jože Biščak and Vinko Vasle
Dear International Press Institute (IPI) and Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR),
we are responding to your latest text (HERE), in which you express your concern about the response of the Slovenian Prime Minister, Mr. Janez Janša, who described the Memorandum (HERE) on freedom of expression and media freedom in Slovenia, prepared by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović, as fake news. We could not agree more with Mr. Janša: The Memorandum is fake news, it is a one-sided and biased report that does not reflect the actual situation in Slovenia.
We do not want to be Mr. Janša’s lawyer. He knows how to defend himself, he doesn’t need our help. About this part of your response briefly just this: if Mr. Janša were silent, if he did not respond to obvious lies and injustices, if he did not fight for truth and justice, if he just submitted himself to people like you and Mrs. Mijatović are and wore sackcloth and ashes – then Slovenia today would never be an independent, sovereign state, then the Slovenian nation would never have its own state, whose 30th anniversary we are celebrating exactly this month. And who do you think you are when ordering Mr. Janša to stop tweeting, to stop criticizing Ms. Mijatović’s Memorandum? By doing so, you are denying him the fundamental human right to freedom of speech.
We find it astonishing that, as a journalist association, you dare to dictate to the Prime Minister of Slovenia how to respond to foreign dignitaries. The commissioner Mijatović is not a journalist – she is a career bureaucrat that heads a political body. You don’t realize how absurd it is for a non-partisan, official apolitical body like your institute to judge how an elected leader of a sovereign state responds to an apparently biased report. Your outrageous statements are the same as an activist group commenting on the tone of conversations between Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron at summits. Journalists can certainly write about it. But you, as an institute that is supposed to advocate for the protection of journalism, have absolutely no basis for analyzing the nuances of exchanges between the two dignitaries. As soon as you allow yourself to do that, you become a politician. Which we have no doubt that you are. Clearly, you are first politicians and only then journalists, working under guise.
Briefly, we will focus only on the part where you praise the Memorandum of Mrs. Dunja Mijatović. The Memorandum is extremely biased, taking into account only the opinion of progressive media and journalists. Let us repeat once again: media freedom in Slovenia is not endangered, everyone can publish the media, everyone can write what they want. But he must also know how to accept criticism. If he can’t do that, then we don’t know what he’s doing in this profession at all. It is astonishing to us that some journalists are not aware of this.
What is even more astonishing for us is that »you welcome Commissioner Mijatović’s memorandum and share her concern about the weakening of media freedom in Slovenia«, when it is clear that you did not read one sentence of the Government’s response, which one by one dismantles every single claim made by the Commissioner. You »share concerns that« (and we quote) several measures restricting the right to protest, including prolonged blanket bans on public assemblies and heavy fines imposed on protestors have restricted freedom of expression. Did you not also read the Government’s response that clearly points to the fact that ALL European countries enforced similar measures? Where is your outrage at the much tougher measures in France, Belgium, Spain, Denmark and Germany? Do you also »share concerns« that media freedom is deteriorating, while police under Sanchez’s reign beat protesters to a bloody pulp? Do you share concerns, when De Croo’s Special Forces chase protesters and reporters alike through parks in Brussels?
Why didn’t you express your concerns about supposed SLAPP lawsuits that the Commissioner is presupposing, when members of the conservative media were systemically and institutionally persecuted and actively prosecuted during the reign of Marjan Šarec?
Why didn’t you share concerns about the toxic environment when liberal politicians during the previous Government’s mandate commended Vladimir Putin’s treatment of journalists?
And on. While reading Dunja Mijatović’s report on freedom of the media and freedom of expression in Slovenia, we thought that we did not live in the country described by this European bureaucrat. We live in another Slovenia, where nothing is true of what is written in her “memorandum of lies and untruths”. How could this have happened to Dunja Mijatović at such a high European position? The question has several answers. One of them is that she conducted some interviews with individual Slovenian journalists and politicians because of the general impression that she wanted to be objective. In doing so – as is typical of her left-wing pedigree – she took into account and used only those opinions and views from Slovenia that confirmed her prejudices about what is really happening in Slovenia in the field of media freedom and freedom of expression. She deliberately overlooked all other views and we can just write this – censored them. Therefore, her report is a shameful attack on facts and truth.
In Slovenia, of course, there is great, even dangerous, intolerance and disqualification of individual media and journalists, except that it is not the media and journalists who helped Mijatović write the report, but the other so-called right side. These are media that have different, right-wing conservative views of the world, which is why they are unacceptable for a part of the Slovenian political scene, which is now united in opposition, and often demand that they be abolished. Mijatović does not have a single word about this. Mijatović writes about the attacks on journalists and their prosecution as if they were the result of the actions of the current government of Janez Janša and his special commitment to make this happen. Here, too, Mijatović deliberately overlooks the aforementioned right-wing media, against which leftists and proud successors of the Communists – as they present themselves (Social Democrats MEP Tanja Fajon) – file criminal complaints only because they present different views on individual events. One of the signatories of this writing – Jože Biščak, received several interrogations by the police in a few months due to articles in the magazine Demokracija, there have been a series of attacks on Nova24TV, in some cases even physical ones. Journalists of the right provenance are being tried to be banned from participating in individual press conferences of left-wing political parties, etc. There is also an interesting sentence in Mijatović’s report, which says that individual female journalists are being sexistly attacked. The only example that corresponds to this is the attack of the former president of the communists and the secret police and the former president of the state Milan Kučan on one of the female journalists who wanted to ask him a question.
Mijatović deliberately uses the epidemic of the virus in Slovenia, claiming that the government of Janez Janša abused and used the epidemic to attack freedom of expression and to dissuade from expressing different opinions and that in this sense the government took several measures to restrict the right to protest. Unfortunately, even here, nothing can be written other than that it is a total lie. The opposition has been abusing the epidemic all the time – and even now – to attack the coalition and Janez Janša with weekly protests and demonstrations, where there is a lot of slogan about who should be killed, who should be imprisoned and the like. The opposition is actively participating in these protests, and so far has not once complied with measures to prevent the spread of the virus. The parliamentary opposition took to the streets from the temple of democracy, claiming that this was the only way to forcibly remove Janez Janša and the government.
A few days ago, a session of the committee for culture was held in the parliament, chaired by the member of the Left, Violeta Tomić. Among other things, she said in the discussion that the right-wing media is an evil that has metastasized. What was happening at this committee meeting was one of the biggest hostile, disqualifying, false attacks on different oriented conservative media, on their journalists and editors in the 30 years of Slovenia’s independence. Such a severe and horrific political pogrom against the work of the media and journalists has never happened before. The screenwriters and organizers of this pogrom are, of course, representatives of the left-wing and communist opposition in parliament.
After all this and when re-reading Dunja Mijatović’s pamphlet, no other conclusion is really possible than that the Commissioner is in fact a servile part of a network of fake news about events in Slovenia, which systematically and with the help of so-called the political and journalistic fifth column from Slovenia disqualifies and degrades a part of the Slovenian political and media space for a well-known ideological and political client, who cannot imagine his position other than in the chair of the rulers. If they are not in power, they become hysterical, aggressive, threatening, demonstrating and spreading lies abroad. If anyone, conservative media journalists actually feel intimidated and threatened. Also physically.
We accuse Dunja Mijatović of abusing a high and important position in the European Union. And this is not only shameful, but also unacceptable.
What do you say to all this? We do not expect an answer. We will tell you. Because you are a tool of politics first, then you are left-wing radicals and only then journalists. Your condemnation is the harshest attack yet on Slovenia, our values connected to freedom of expression and free speech as well as our sovereignty. How dare you?
Jože Biščak and Vinko Vasle
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.