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Monday, November 28, 2022

SDS: It is necessary to condemn the manipulative and biased reporting of the media, which encourages and approves hate speech

By: C. R.

In the Parliamentary Group of the SDS, a request was addressed to the chairwoman of the Committee for Culture to convene an urgent meeting of the Committee, at which the item entitled “Actions in the field of media and culture that systematically escalate hostility, incite violence and attacks against individuals based on their values, beliefs or worldview”.

Full press release:

On Friday, October 29th, 2022, an unacceptable incident took place in front of the National Assembly, a physical attack on a member of the parliamentary group of the Slovenian Democratic Party, Branko Grims. It was a physical attack that took place in front of the National Assembly, when a stranger physically attacked a member of parliament, Branko Grims. Prior to that, there were several verbal attacks on members of the Slovene Democratic Party (SDS) and other MPs, especially from the opposition. We believe that it is high time for joint and swift action: we have been witnessing verbal violence, insults and spitting on MPs for a long time, and all of the above has greatly intensified in the last two years.

At the same time, it should be emphasised that these are unfortunately the result of the fact that violence against officials has been systematically encouraged and fuelled for the last two years. In the last two years, calls for exclusion, hostility and even attacks on organisations or individuals have appeared more and more frequently in our society. These types of attacks arise from hostility due to different beliefs, values, or worldview of fellow citizens. It was noticed that the seriousness of these attacks is dangerously escalating and goes from verbal exclusion and hostility to physical attacks on individual facilities in which individuals or organisations operate, and even directly on people.

It is interesting that after the recent attack on the activist Nika Kovač, Prime Minister Robert Golob announced practically the next day that the Government of the Republic of Slovenia is establishing a special action group to prevent hate speech. For this purpose, it should also appoint a national coordinator. Hate speech must be banished from all communication channels and platforms, as well as from the National Assembly, Golob emphasised.

SDS MPs support all efforts and measures to prevent any kind of violence. But at the same time, we emphasise that a democratic and tolerant society must allow its citizens to freely express and defend diverse viewpoints, even critical ones, despite the fact that some people find them inappropriate. Such a society must insist on the premise that the expression and defence of views is free and protected. In cases where the views and ideas of an individual interfere with the rights of other individuals, society or the state must limit this freedom and protect the rights of the individual.

Unfortunately, in Slovenia, we are faced with double standards in this area. All too often, these double standards take place on the side of the political left. All too often, the left simply labels every critical word as offensive or hate speech. This is already a basic disqualification right at the beginning, even before any argumentation and presentation of opinions. On the other hand, attempts are also being made to criminalise the right to freedom of speech. Hate speech is so often evaluated ideologically, with double standards, and all too often it is evaluated by who the person is who said something, and not by what the content of what was said is. In this way, the right to freedom of speech is tried to be restricted to those who think otherwise, or to exert pressure on them to silence critical thought, especially to prevent criticism of government policy or a certain authority.

On the other hand, we are witnessing an increasingly excessive tolerance of hate speech, which we should rightly pay attention to. Already our highest legal act, the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, in Article 63, states that any incitement to national, racial, religious, or other inequality and incitement of national, racial, religious, or other hatred and intolerance is unconstitutional. Any incitement to violence and war is also unconstitutional. At the same time, we also draw attention to the need for consistent use of Article 297 of the Criminal Code (KZ-1), which defines criminal acts of public incitement to hatred, violence, and intolerance. This commits “whoever … denies, minimises, approves, belittles, ridicules or advocates genocide, holocaust, crimes against humanity, war crimes, aggression or other crimes against humanity”.

Let us remind you that at the meeting of the RTV programme board in May 2016, people with names and surnames held the banner “Death to Janšism, freedom to the nation”, but no concrete actions were taken. Moreover, criminal charges related to the posters and inscriptions “Death to Janšism, freedom to the nation” were dismissed by the District Prosecutor’s Office in Ljubljana, because they believe that it was not a criminal act of inciting hatred and intolerance, which is prosecuted ex officio.

In the field of culture, the excuse that something is “artistic freedom” is too often abused. In the poetry collection Vladavina muh, published by Svetlana Makarović, we can read, among other things, that the SDS party is a party of rats and must be destroyed. It is that Svetlana Makarovič, who was a big supporter of the Friday cyclists and the KUL opposition, and she also read the mentioned poem in person at one of the Friday rallies. The rest of the songs in the collection are also, according to many, full of hatred and anger towards those who think differently. Is this rhetoric that is supposed to be an example of a tolerant and free society?

A large degree of responsibility for such actions is borne by the media, which supports such events. For many years, Mladina weekly has always taken care to arouse hostile feelings towards the SDS president with its covers, which it further reinforces with its “anti-Janša” rhetoric in its articles.

In view of the above, in the SDS Parliamentary Group, we believe that it is up to all of us to consistently strive to ensure that any majority hate speech in the country, no matter who it is aimed at, will be silenced once and for all.

We propose to the Committee for Culture to adopt the following conclusions after the discussion:

  1. The Committee for Culture condemns any hate speech in the media and culture that deliberately intensifies hostility, incites violence and attacks against individuals based on their values, beliefs, or worldview.
  2. The Committee for Culture calls on all state authorities to take consistent action and implement legal provisions in the area of criminal acts of public incitement to hatred, violence, and intolerance.
  3. The Culture Committee condemns manipulative and biased media reporting that encourages and condones hate speech and calls for professional and ethical reporting.
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