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During the Time of the Šarec Government, Numerous Attacks on the Media and the Journalists Happened

Slovenian national television was very fond of the former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, and the same was true for many other central media outlets, which are, of course, duly following the orders of the left-wing political option. Šarec was even named Person of the yYar by journalists and editors and also received public praise from Miša Molk and Tanja Gobec. No wonder, then, that the media rarely reported on his “sins.” However, despite all of the protection, we can still find proof of the pressuring of the media that happened during the time of Šarec’s government. And the double standards in all of the cases we will mention are more than obvious.

On the 2018 website of the European Parliament, we can find a parliamentary question regarding the fact that the Prime Minister of Slovenia, Marjan Šarec, tried to prevent the operation of the media, which is critical of the government with sophisticated pressuring. At the time, the then-Prime Minister Šarec called on the companies that are partially or majority state-owned to stop advertising in the media outlets that spread hate speech. The Association of Journalists and Publicists (Združenje novinarjev in publicistov – hereinafter referred to as ZNP) has found that the call in question is dangerously similar to those from the period of recent history where media censorship was common. This was an attempt to politically disable the media that was critical of the government from a position of power. Then-representatives of the government parties – the current opposition – accused the media, which were close to the current Prime Minister Janez Janša, of spreading hate speech; however, what exactly hate speech is, was left to their subjective judgment. ZNP added that the Šarec government labelled something hate speech even if it was merely the media writing critically about migration or the government policy related to this.

“The Prime Minister’s statement represents an attack not only on the media but also on entrepreneurial freedom, as in this way, political pressure is being exerted on the management of companies, which consequently also leads to politically motivated staffing in the companies or the sanctioning of the executives who do not want to bow down under pressure. The Slovenian Association of Patriotic Journalists supports the principled position that the state should withdraw ownership from companies and banks, as this would prevent political abuses and intimidation of the management of large companies, which would not be left at the mercy of political personnel,” The Slovenian Association of Patriotic Journalists (Slovensko združenje domoljubnih novinarjev) pointed out at the time and also asked Šarec to revoke the statement and apologise for it.

“Recently, RTV Slovenia has been allocating a lot of space on television, radio, and the MMC RTV SLO website, for certain political activists who are abusing the national media house – which is paid for by all Slovenian taxpayers – to deal with the media that are not being controlled by the ruling elite and who report differently than the dominant media,” they wrote in ZNP at the time. In October 2018, Radio Slovenia, which is led by the director Miha Lapreht, prepared a show, Hot Microphone (Vroči mikrofon), entitled “Ads in the wrong crowd,” with which the public radio, which is financed by all citizens, joined the campaign of the pro-government leftist Domen Savič, who insisted that state-owned companies should not advertise in media, such as Nova24TV and Demokracija. Savič is a well-known political activist of the parties of the left-wing political option, who often accuses others of insulting and hate speech, even though he is the one who uses this method the most. ZNP pointed out that the then-ruling coalition had a great influence on the public RTV and the Slovenian press agency, and indirectly, through the left-leaning owners of the party, it also had an influence on all larger printed media outlets. “Since the state is the largest owner of companies, the government parties also have an influence on the distribution of the advertising cake, even without Domen Savič and Radio Slovenia. On the public RTV, the government appoints a programme council and supervisory board, which then select the entire business and editorial board. A show prepared by the public media outlet, influenced by the authorities, the aim of which is to urge the state-owned companies to stop advertising in the few opposition-oriented media outlets, is an abuse of power, intended to improve their own position in the advertising market and to reduce the openness and breadth of the media space. It even seems as if we are returning to the old days when one party controlled all the media,” they wrote.

RTV did not find the ads that were critical of the left-wing option suitable for publication
Later, in October 2018, they banned an advertisement for the weekly Reporter, which should have been broadcast on TV Slovenia. ZPN pointed out that this is a gross violation of freedom of the press. The management of RTV Slovenia banned the advertisement on the grounds of it not being appropriate, saying that the advertisements should not mention candidates for the local elections. The text of the advertisement read: “In the latest Reporter you can read all about the background of the hot political conflict in the race for the position of Mayor of Ljubljana,” so nobody was actually mentioned by name. It should be noted that this was not the first time this happened. Namely, the same thing happened in spring of the same year, when they did not like another Reporter ad: “In its latest issue, the Reporter magazine reveals alarming data on the waiting times in health care doubling.” A picture of Miro Cerar was shown next to the text. Despite the fact that this topic was of great interest to our society, RTV Slovenija refused to broadcast the advertisement. According to them, Reporter allegedly wondered about how many people Cerar and Milojka Kolar Celarc, the then-Minister of Health, had murdered. In recent months, the RTV does not seem to have any problem with blaming the government for the deaths of those who passed away because of the epidemic, as well as for everything else.

The RTV management did not pay any attention to the attacks on Možina, which took place practically on their doorstep
“The Association of Journalists and Publicists rejects the politically and ideologically motivated persecution of the journalist of Television Slovenia Jože Možina, Ph.D., which has been happening due to an interview he conducted with the historian Joće Dežman, Ph.D., with the greatest indignation. These are brutal attacks on the freedom of media creation in Slovenia, and it seems almost incredible that they are actually happening in a democratic society. The attacks of the president of The Union of the Associations for the Values of the National Liberation Movement of Slovenia, Tit Turnšek, and the Social Democrats MP Marko Koprivec need to be pointed out in this situation. The outcome of this will have long-term consequences for the Slovenian society,” ZNP wrote. In the summer of 2018, a left-wing activist waited for Možina in front of the entrance to RTVS and threatened him, telling him that bad things are going to happen to him. The RTVS management did not respond to the incident at all. This same left-wing activist, Igor Bricelj, and his group of activists waited for Možina at least 20 more times in front of the entrance to RTV, but the management did nothing about it. Možina was also the victim of death threats on the internet, made by the left-wing activist Benjamin Purger. It is clear that the national RTV has some strong double standards.

An orchestrated attack on the Reporter
At the end of September 2019, ZNP condemned the pressuring of the web portal Požareport, and the show Faktor. According to them, the pressuring was more than obviously being orchestrated by the Prime Minister’s Office through the connected people in the state-owned companies and the media. After Požareport revealed certain connections between the State Secretary Damir Črnčec and the company Westinghouse, an orchestrated attack against the web portal and its owner began. What ZNP was especially worried about was the involvement of the media outlets that were directly or indirectly owned by the state. They were also worried about the possibility of the then-government having a predominant influence on the appointment of their leadership. The latter shows that politics maintains its influence in the media, which is unacceptable from the point of view of journalistic freedom and media independence.

ZNP also strongly opposed the proposed changes to the media legislation, which were announced in 2019. Among other things, they noted that under the guise of preventing hate speech, the proposed changes to media legislation provide for drastic restrictions of freedom of expression and effectively introduce censorship, along with extremely high penalties

The journalists were also physically attacked
Let’s not forget how Šarec lost his temper a few months before his resignation, as Nova24TV was asking him some difficult questions for a few days then. Šarec’s security detail roughly grabbed the journalist Marjanca Scheicher by the arm and stopped her from continuing with the questions, which our cameras also recorded. Can you imagine the affair if that were to be done by someone from the current government? In Šarec’s case, however, the mainstream media probably did not even report on this. Moreover, the mainstream media praised him and even compared him to Luka Dončić of Slovenian politics.

Sara Kovač

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