“We do not believe it is right that someone should arbitrarily, just because they have such a large majority in the National Assembly, come and behead a public institution, and not because we do not like you, but because it is bad for democracy. Tomorrow, someone else, perhaps more totalitarian than you, could come and demand the same,” said Dr Peter Gregorčič, among other things, in a discussion with the Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda) MP Mojca Šetinc Pašek on the television channel N1. The MP was visibly helpless against the articulate Gregorčič, who listed the facts for her, while she herself provided only more “pitiful” arguments.
“I understand that this topic is extremely politically and emotionally charged because it is about the problems at Radio-Television Slovenia, but you have to remember that when we are talking about human rights – the bearers of human rights are individuals, and the essence of human rights is human dignity, which belongs to the individual simply because he or she is a human being. Even if you, if I, or any Member of Parliament is a criminal, they still have human rights, and they must be effectively protected – if they are not, then you are violating a civilisational, European and Western world norm,” Dr Peter Gregorčič explained in his opening remarks in a discussion with the Freedom Movement MP Mojca Šetinc Pašek on the N1 news programme.
Following the Constitutional Court’s decision to lift the suspension of the implementation of part of the amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act, the applicant Peter Gregorčič and the author Matej Avbelj have sent an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, arguing that all legal remedies to fix this situation have been exhausted in Slovenia. Gregorčič explained on N1 that this was the only thing they had left at the moment to defend their rights. Gregorčič began by explaining that he had passed the decision – which might be a possible violation of human rights, due to the termination of the mandates of the members of the Programme and Supervisory Boards and the representatives of the RTVS management – to the Strasbourg Court. On the show, he also explained that he believes that the Constitutional Court’s decision to lift the injunction temporarily suspending the implementation of the law was “scandalous”, as the court had failed to protect the legal position of the initiators of the constitutionality review. He added that he and Avbelj consider this to be a major precedent not only in Slovenia, but also in the European area, and stressed that human rights must be effectively protected.
“The Constitutional Court has also made it clear in its decision that it cannot exercise its constitutional role in this composition. It can no longer effectively protect human rights. This means that we have exhausted all legal remedies, and the door is open to us in Strasbourg,” Gregorčič said. Mojca Šetinc Pašek, a member of the Freedom Movement party, agreed that every person has the right to exhaust all legal possibilities – both in Slovenia and at the ECHR, but added that it was clear from the Constitutional Court’s decision that it had not yet made its final decision.
Diverse views are the essence of pluralism
When the interlocutors came to the topic of political barbarism and pogrom against the public broadcaster Radio-Television Slovenia, the MP blamed this on the fact that RTVS employs some individuals who were or still are politically defined. And while she is clearly the one who went from the “independent” journalistic waters into politics, she says for herself that in her case, it was “completely different” and that she had higher ambitions. Her claims are actually quite discriminatory, as Gregorčič, who believes that people should be treated equally irrespective of their personal circumstances, which include political party affiliation, also noted. He said that he is not a politician and cannot exert any political influence, nor is he a member of any political party, “I personally do not identify with any party, I have my own prism, my own worldview and through it I assess the events in the country – as you do, as Mr Orešnik does, and I think that is the right way to go about these things, that is the essence of pluralism.” As for the people who “got” their positions on national television, which the MP also criticised, he asked her whether she thought it was fair to ask people who applied for a job for their political affiliation and either accept or reject them on that basis.
Politics is not the only thing that wants influence over the media
“As a former journalist, you probably know that politics is not the only thing that wants to have influence over the media. There is also the business sector, as well as other social and interest groups,” Gregorčič replied, adding that “every group that wants to exercise its power and gain influence wants to get the media.” He explained that people only know about the words and actions of politicians when they hear about them in the media, “and from this point of view alone, this proposal is flawed, because it removes the appointment of key bodies from the transparent process that takes place in the National Assembly – but, beware, this is the institution with the greatest democratic legitimacy – and instead, it moves this process into the dark rooms of civil society groups that also have their own interests,” Gregorčič said, pointing out that it had never been explained to him exactly what he himself had done and which of his actions would have led to the termination of his position. “I can assure you that when I accepted the position of President of the Programme Council last February, I tried to work exclusively for the good of the national media outlet, I sought compromises within the institution, but I also experienced the following: when the Workers Council shouted that it could not establish a dialogue with the management, I wanted to help establish a dialogue also because of the internal struggles – there are always two sides to every story.” However, when he offered to help, the Workers Council refused.
The decision that has now been made is beyond the scope of RTV, Gregorčič believes, adding that the Constitutional Court could have handled the matter much more elegantly, “it could have determined the way in which its decision would be enforced, which, by the way, it did with the Environmental Protection Act, where the case has been dragging on for more than a year with a temporary suspension, and nobody cares whether Slovenia is going to pay hundreds of millions of euros in damages because we do not have a system of garbage dumps. It could have determined the method of enforcement so that our mandates would be returned to us, and then you in the National Assembly could have dismissed us, and we would have had a legal remedy, namely an appeal to the Constitutional Court. But here the Constitutional Court just said, let’s side with the legislator, let’s just take action and let these plaintiffs simply be washed away,” Gregorčič said.
“The authorities are acting collectively against the individual, and this is contrary to human rights. Why? Because the state or the authorities are not the bearers of human rights, so they cannot appeal to the ECHR either,” said Grgeorčič, who believes that human rights must be effectively protected.
Gregorčič does not expect the Strasbourg court to return him to office, but he said the Strasbourg court can give him some “satisfaction.” As he has repeatedly explained, he and Avbelj decided to appeal because they do not believe in depoliticisation or civil war, “we believe in the law, in what is right.” He then said that he was glad that he was no longer in his former position, because he agreed that things were unsustainable at RTV, but “we do not believe it is right that someone should arbitrarily, just because they have such a large majority in the National Assembly, come and behead a public institution, and not because we do not like you, but because it is bad for democracy,” said Gregorčič, who also explained that “tomorrow, someone else, perhaps more totalitarian than you, could come and demand the same,” Gregorčič warned, among other things.