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Experts about the current media hysteria: The state of mind among the journalists is outright miserable

This is true liberty: when free-born men having to advise the public may speak free. What can be juster in a state than this?” John Milton wrote sometime around 1644. But unfortunately, we know that free media, especially nowadays, is a kind of utopia. However, we should, in the role of the nation’s reason, memory and conscience, defend our autonomy. It is also known that the mass media shape public opinion through their manipulative forms and methods of dissimulation and political marketing. Thus, they form a dominant version of the opinion consensus and then continuously strengthen the spiral of the dominant opinion. Most theories claim that in this way, the government is supposed to consolidate its power, but in the media field, a one-party system has carried on from the past, and many journalists still work as if they are employees of the agitprop commission of the central committee. All of this is evident from the daily reporting of the majority media, which, in their role of political activists, attack every move that the current government makes, while at the same time they also use every opportunity to complain and claim that they are being oppressed and that they are victims of pressuring by the terrible, dictatorial government.

Day after day, we can read articles in the mainstream media that talk about how the days of media freedom in our country are numbered. “Slovenia in the sad company of the companies that have already totally suppressed the independent media,” they wrote on the web portal yesterday, explaining that the discussion on media freedom was originally only supposed to focus on Poland and Hungary, but then MEPs were forced to also add Slovenia to the list. And how could they not have if the media are allegedly also being treated very badly in our country. Of course, the Levica party warned that Prime Minister Janez Janša was placing Slovenia in the company of the illiberal countries, while the SAB party stated that they could not have imagined a worse journey right before our country’s presidency of the European Council. “Attacks on the media and journalists by the Prime Minister Janez Janša in recent weeks have become louder and louder on the European political stage and in the European media as well,” our largest commercial media outlet wrote, stressing that the Slovene Association of Journalists (Društvo novinarjev Slovenije) also noted that the dynamics, intensity and brutality of the attacks on the media are only escalating. The LMŠ party warned that Brussels has also been noticing that media freedom in Slovenia is increasingly being violated. “Seize the power of and then control the media.” This is, in their words, the goal of Prime Minister Janša when it comes to the media. They, of course, also remembered to mention Orbanisation, as it is practically impossible for them not to mention it. And how could we forget Tanja Fajon, who pointed out that she never imagined that the MEPs would ever have to talk about Slovenia as a place where the authorities are trying to silence the free media. She also warned that not only is our health endangered, but also the freedom of the media and our democracy, as reported by the web portal of our national media outlet, To top it all off, the mainstream media was also bothered by the Prime Minister’s public call for the resignation of the director of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), Bojan Veselinović. In order to better present the situation in Slovenia, both media also provided photographs, and on this occasion, they found it most appropriate to use a picture of printed media (newspapers) locked with a chain and a lock.

And what did you read yesterday?

The state of mind among the journalists is outright miserable
President of the Association of Journalists and Publicists (Združenje novinarjev in publicistov), Matevž Tomšič, Ph.D, explained that this syntagm of the government interference in the media is being used in a very selective way in Slovenia. Namely, government interference apparently only happens when the right is in power. When the left is in power ant the Prime Minister (in this particular case, it was Marjan Šarec) calls on the state-owned companies to not advertise their services in certain media with the “wrong orientation,” this is not considered to be interference. This shows us a high level of ignorance, Tomšič said and added: “Even if we accepted this assumption or claim that the government is interfering with the media, then we could conclude that it is extremely unsuccessful in that endeavour. The vast majority of the media in our country are strongly opposed to the government. If the government really wants to subjugate these media outlets, then it is not doing a good job.” He also reminded everyone that if a journalist is behaving like an activist, then he or she cannot expect to be treated differently than an activist.

When asked whether the journalists of the majority media are even aware that they are not impartial, Tomašič answered that the problem is activism. In fact, there is more and more of it, at least on the national television, where they were still able to cover it up a few years ago, but now their activism is open and direct. Journalists and editors act as if they are party activists. And the problem is also that some journalists are not even aware of this, which brings us to the issue of educating the journalists themselves. Tomšič mentioned Professor Marko Milosavljević from the Department of Journalism at the University of Ljubljana as an example – this also shows the obvious politicisation of a public institution or at least part of a public institution that is public about its political orientation and also publicly defends its members. “If this is the way future journalists are being educated, then we cannot really be surprised when we learn that the state of mind among the Slovenian journalists is as miserable as it is,” he added.

Apparently, Poland and Hungary also have their own Zgaga, Milosavljević, …
STA is a state-owned media, founded by the Republic of Slovenia, which is why it is also completely normal for the state to appoint and remove its directors, Tomšič commented on Janša’s call for Veselinović to resign. “There is no way we could talk about any kind of independence here, period,” he emphasised. The export of opinion to Europe or beyond the borders of the country will continue, as this is also happening in other countries, Tomšič believes. We have all heard about the terrible things that are happening in Poland or Hungary, and this is probably a similar type of export to what we are used to. “This is about exporting domestic problems. Apparently, Poland and Hungary also have their own Zgaga, Milosavljević and the like, who export their political frustrations to the European floor, as those who think they should be in power in the countries but are currently not, are trying to get some allies in Europe – so the situation there is probably quite similar to that in Slovenia. If we know that what is being written about Slovenia is not true, then, of course, there is no reason to then believe that what is being written about Poland and Hungary is true. They are afraid that the multicultural left will start to lose its influence over time, so they are quickly finding allies, and since this is a very widespread tactic in the European institutions, even the media, they are quickly finding people who are willing to work with them,” the President of the Association of Journalists and Publicists said.

Due to numerous manipulations, the Ministry of Culture commissioned a study on the media landscape in Slovenia, which is being prepared by the Faculty of the Media. Borut Rončević, Ph.D., and Matevž Tomšič were also both part of the research. With the media such as 24ur, MMC RTV SLO, Dnevnik, Večer, Delo, Slovenske novice and Svet24, the imbalance is somewhere between 30 and 40 percent. The pro-government or anti-opposition attitude is not significantly represented in most of these media. This is particularly concerning in the case of the RTV web portal, as it considerably stands out in terms of imbalance. So, there are still no surprises here; the media is dominated by the left-leaning media. In addition, a survey from 2002 already showed that the media space in Slovenia was markedly one-sided in its political and ideological preferences and that the transitional left was (and still is) strongly favoured and supported. Researchers at the Faculty of the Media have now also confirmed that most of the media have a recognisable political and ideological note.  Among these, the left-wing views clearly prevail over right-wing views. Those with by far the greatest reach of daily readers often express anti-government views and are much more in favour of the current left-wing opposition parties. It is therefore worth pointing out that the political left also has much larger media support than the current centre-right government does.

The journalists do not know what real pressures on the media are
“Without the terrible pressure of the dictatorial government, 95 percent of the media would be against the current government, instead of just 80 percent,” Borut Rončevič, Ph.D., said slightly sarcastically about the situation, but his statement is actually very true. Sebastjan Jeretič, a political analyst and former PR representative for the SD party, pointed out that the problem was that arguing with the media and sometimes criticising it was presented as interference in the media. The media has, in fact, entered into political activism on its own, so one has to wonder what they expected – it is hard to understand that they were apparently expecting pure silence. Everything that is happening is more or less a consequence of their political activities. “If they are this sensitive that they find the simple act of discussing the record to be interference, the question arises how would they survive in a country where politics really interfere with the media,” he wondered. As far as Europe is concerned, we have already said many times that this is a matter of exporting domestic political activism through the colleagues on the European level, and the European colleagues simply believe anything that our domestic journalist pass on to them, without any consideration. This Europe that is evaluating us is not actually Europe, but rather, these are people who have such and such friends in Slovenia. “Those who have decided to follow the Slovenian left cannot be convinced to change their minds, no matter how hard you try, because it is not a matter of arguments, but a matter of a political decision to help your political supporters in Slovenia,” he added.

France Vreg, Ph.D., who is considered the founder of journalism studies in Ljubljana and the founder of communication science, would have a lot to say in these times when the media are the target of systematic political pressures, as the issues of the democratic role of journalist and the very nature of communication were always in the forefront of his interest,” they wrote on the website last December. And they were right. If he knew that at “his” Faculty for Sociology, Political Sciences and Journalism (now the Faculty of Social Sciences) they are now producing political activists instead of journalists, he would certainly be turning in his grave. Vreg was always aware that the economic and political elites are pushing the mass media into a subordinate position of legitimising elites with their power. Therefore, he always emphasised the role of critical investigative journalism with its function of controlling all branches of government. Many years ago, he already pointed out that political communication and journalism are becoming part of the global media industry, that journalism is exposed to commercialisation, and political propaganda and marketing are destroying the utopia of an autonomous, thoughtful and critical public. He also always pointed out that the journalists have to have communication professionalism, so high professional standards and that they have to be responsible and ethical. “Wherever mediocrity, ignorance, poor knowledge of problems, everyday journalistic pragmatism and careerism prevail in the journalistic structures, we can only hope in vain that such communicators will be able to establish a democratic social communication,” he wrote.

Sara Bertoncelj

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