Many years ago, the thesis was established in Slovenia that the right-wing political option has great difficulties observing the democratic rules of the game and that it is precisely at times when the centre-right governments are in power that most problems arise, related to government interference in media freedom and other autonomous social systems, such as the judiciary, education, police, army and so on.
In all this production of the virtual reality, it is interesting that it is precisely during the times of the centre-right governments that the alleged “war” of Prime Minister Janez Janša with the media appears, but when other government teams that are to the liking of the political underground come to power, these “wars” are suddenly over, and the “normal” situation is established practically overnight, in which the (right-wing) opposition is the scapegoat again. Of course, the guardians of the Slovenian media grail are counting on the fact that the European public is not fully acquainted with the situation in Slovenia, so they are trying to convince them through the commissioned articles in the foreign media (such as the one on the Politico web portal) that the country which will hold the EU presidency in the second half of this year, is one, whose government has major problems with democracy and media freedom. In fact, this is nothing new, as similar attacks also took place during Slovenia’s first presidency of the EU Council in 2008, when a notorious petition against censorship was launched. The most important players in the current events are more or less the same.
The impact of the transitional left on the EU
It seems that this time, the European political elite is much more receptive to the aggressive propaganda of the Slovenian transitional left. There are also objective reasons for this. One of them is certainly that in the last five years, the relationship between the European “headquarters” (Brussels) on the one hand and Hungary and Poland on the other has become strained. And it is not only the European socialists and liberals that play a major role in this, but it is also part of the European People’s Party, as some of its members have found themselves in open conflict with those who want to finally “Europeanise” (in the good sense of the word) the transitional environment of the former communist countries, which, in addition to Slovenia, also include Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Croatia (it should also be taken into account that the territory of the former German Democratic Republic is also part of present-day Germany). In addition, Slovenia is represented in the European Parliament by two left-wing MEPs who are former journalists (Tanja Fajon and Irena Joveva), which means that the transitional left has even more channels to both Slovenian and the foreign media, and its influence on the European political public is noticeably larger.
The Vice-President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency, Věra Jourová from the Czech Republic, otherwise a member of the liberal ALDE parliamentary group, is also among the important allies of Slovenia’s “guardians of the grail.” Therefore, in addition to Hungary and Poland, Slovenia has also been accused of being “problematic” on the European political stage (for example, during last year’s debates on the “rule of law”) – even though Prime Miniter Janez Janša fought off last year’s attacks by constructively participating in forming the compromise on the division of the European funds, where he obtained a significant share of the European funds (mostly grants) for Slovenia.
Calls for a visit from a group from the European Commission
Considering the recent events, due to which Slovenia, and especially its government, found itself on the pillory again because of the influence of the well-known media activists (the names of certain influential activists, such as Blaž Zgaga and Anuška Delić are being mentioned once again), Prime Minister Janša once again decided to take the only reasonable path under the current circumstances, but this only angered the activist media group even more. Namely, he sent a letter to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in which he pointed out that the problem of Slovenia’s democracy lies elsewhere, contrary to what the guardians of the media grail and the European Commission Vice-President Jourova, as well as some other European officials, are saying. In his letter, Janša reminded the President of the European Commission of similar events that happened in 2008, when he was also leading the government, and some Slovenian activists claimed that Slovenia posed a threat to European democracy. However, the opposite turned out to be true. Janša thus expressed regret that some EU officials were once again taking part in slandering Slovenia’s reputation. He therefore called for a visit of a group from the European Commission. He invited the group to visit Slovenia to see for themselves what the real state of democracy, the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the freedom and plurality of the media in Slovenia is like. “If you believe it would be appropriate, the group could also include representatives from the European Council and the European Parliament,” Janša wrote in his letter that was published in its entirety on the Demokracija website.
The problems lie elsewhere
In the continuation of the letter, Janša reminded the President of the European Commission that in Slovenia, we have problems with the state of democracy in general, and the reasons for this are much deeper and older than what is currently going on. They are related to the elements of the unfinished transition in Slovenia. In the last three decades, an elite has formed under a strong influence of the SD party and the now-failed LDS party (its representatives moved on to other parties). Janša went on to point out some concrete examples that completely deny the fact that the right-wing parties in Slovenia are the source of problems with democracy – in fact, the opposite is true. Janša highlighted a few cases of attacks by the transitional left on the media, from the physical attack on Miro Petek, the destruction of Bortu Mešek, the conviction of Jani Božič by Alenka Bratušek, to the attack of Marjan Šarec on the advertisers who advertise in the non-mainstream media outlets.
He also pointed out the problematic ownership of the media outlets, which call for ignoring the measures, implemented to limit the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, the attack of the mainstream media on private universities, and at the same time, their protection of the old staff in the judiciary, and of course, examples that prove that the judiciary in our country is not actually independent, but rather subordinate to the old centres of power. This also applies to the work of the police and the prosecutor’s office, which are being directed, in order to make sure that these seemingly independent institutions could help direct the election results. Despite all of this, the scandal with the laundering of the Iranian money in the largest state-owned bank still does not have a judicial epilogue. Years ago, the political option that supports all of this even insulted the European Union and called it a “gang of neckties” and a “band of thieves.”
Now, it is the European Commission’s turn
In order to avoid keeping the real problems of the Slovenian democracy hidden, Prime Minister Janez Janša suggested that the European Commission send observers to Slovenia and “propose, among other things, measures in line with the European norms, with which Slovenia could eliminate the problems of the unfinished transition, described above.” “As soon as we agree on the details of the mission, I will send you detailed evidence of the above-mentioned concrete problems that threaten the democracy in Slovenia. It is in our common interest that when the rule of law and the state of democracy are being assessed, the same rules are used for everyone in Slovenia and in the entire European Union and that the rule of law is established everywhere, as opposed to the rule by abuse of the law,” Janša wrote. He is counting on the European Union to respect its own principle of loyal cooperation between the EU and the Member States, which calls for mutual respect, which is based on the objective, comprehensive and impartial treatment of and respect for the facts.
Responses to Janša’s letter to the European Commission
Ivan Štuhec, Ph.D., professor, publicist, moral theologist: “I believe it was the only right thing to do, for him to invite them to Slovenia. The commissioned slander by the left-wing journalists has got to stop. They have managed to produce two big affairs: Zvonovi (bells) and Patria. And now that the Constitutional Arch Coalition has burned down, they are trying to create yet another affair. These are the same people that demonised Orban, Trump and Poland. Anyone who resists cultural Marxism in Europe must come prepared for a media lynching. It is very simple actually: Europe needs to resist the new ideology that is on the rise and whose promoters are the neo-leftists in politics, the media and culture. In the 20th century, we have suffered enough from the totalitarian regimes and their systemic solutions. The EU was not based on ideological exclusivism but on the idea of solving concrete problems. If the EU sticks to this, it will survive, but if it intends to promote cultural Marxism and the new left in the name of freedom, it will fail.”
Sebastijan Valentan, Ph.D., theologist, lawyer and expert on media issues:
“Freedom of the media, or better yet, freedom of expression is protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Of course, this freedom is also protected in the Slovenian Constitution. It is not absolute – it is limited with the rights of other people. The rights, such as human dignity, the right to a good name or religious freedom. This is an imperative that we must take into account in any advocacy for our rights. When there are potential violations happening in the field of the media, such as restrictions on media freedom, legal mechanisms are in place to allow the affected party to intervene, starting with the national courts and then moving all the way up to the supranational courts. This is a legitimate democratic path. Everything else is political theatre, which does fill up the web and printed pages in the media but brings nothing but bad mood. Of course, to the people who are willing to buy into it.”
France Cukjati, doctor, President of the Assembly for the Republic and columnist: “We presided over the EU Council for the first time in the first half of 2008. And what a circus full of lies and rude incitements those “571 journalists” staged at the time, trying to convince the entire European media public how Janša is trying to subordinate the media and how the EU will face a catastrophe if it trusts Slovenia to lead it. The same thing is happening now. They are slandering Slovenia abroad in the hope that this will at least slightly tarnish the Prime Minister’s reputation. However, Janez Janša is not a politician of the rank of Fajon or Šarec; he is also a statesman who knows that the trust of his European colleagues is very important for a successful presidency and a successful promotion of Slovenia. So, it is very appropriate that he invited them here: come and see for yourselves! It would not be the worst thing if Brussels bureaucrats ever inquired about a situation in person before assessing the state of the matters in a particular country. Too much damage has already been done when even the European institutions were making decisions based on biased information or even malicious lies.”
Milan Zver, Member of the European Parliament (SDS/EPP): “In Slovenia, the transition to democracy did not happen as it should have, not even in the field of media. One of the American presidents stated that the media are even more important for our society than democracy. This is an ambiguous statement that could be discussed at length. But the key lies somewhere else. The freedom of the media is undoubtedly realised in Slovenia. This means that the “producers” of the messages have relatively large freedom. Journalists, especially the mainstream media journalists, are like sacred cows. They are more protected than politicians. But in addition to media freedom, we also have another fundamental human right that we ignore all too often: the right to be objectively informed, which is rooted even in the constitution. Since the media space in Slovenia is not balanced, this means that a good part of the Slovenian public is deprived of this or even discriminated against. This is the problem of the Slovenian media landscape, and it must be explained to Ursula van der Leyen, Vera Jourova, and others.”
Romana Tomc, Member of the European Parliament (SDS/EPP): “No country before us has so openly called for scrutiny by the European Institutions, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of the EU. With his letter to the President of the European Commission, Prime Minister Janez Janša embarrassed those who spread lies about Slovenia on the European floor. It is not in the interest of the Slovenian left to verify the facts. They are interested in manipulation and deception and then, on the basis of untrue media reports, slandering the successful government abroad. We are looking forward to the arrival of an independent commission that will verify the facts in Slovenia. Namely, we do not agree with the opposition spreading lies and slandering Slovenia in order to achieve internal political goals in the EU. We will stand up to this with truth and facts. It is therefore in the interest of both parties to investigate the real situation in Slovenia. However, the examination of the state of the media, the state of democracy and the rule of law should be carried out comprehensively and in detail, not only based on the newspaper articles of the left-wing media, the basic purpose of which is to overthrow the current government. They will be amazed to find out how different the truth is from what was presented to them.”
Franc Bogovič, Member of the European Parliament (SLS/EPP): “The influence of the media on the election results and general political developments is more than obvious, especially in the period after the fall of Šarec’s government – in my opinion, at least three quarters of the media in Slovenia are fighting with no gloves on, they are practically cheering for and openly supporting the overthrowing and the eventual fall of the current centre-right government. I certainly expect transparent ownership of all media outlets in Slovenia, no matter what their open or hidden political editorial policy is. In light of the current debate on media freedom and freedom of speech, it is therefore necessary and right that the EU media ombudsmen, who are far from well-acquainted with the transition dynamics and its impact on the ownership of Slovenia’s largest media and the concentrated media ownership, check all these facts about the ownership of the media in Slovenia, both those that cover the centre-left pole and those that cover the centre-right pole. I believe that in doing so, they will be able to quickly realise that the Slovenian media space is by no means balanced and that, unfortunately, other interests and political agendas often hide behind claims of high professionalism and media freedom. I want us to have this open debate in Slovenia once and for all, I want the media and the politicians to stop faking ignorance and finally tell it like it is. Let’s think about how the Slovenian society could benefit from having fully transparent ownership in all Slovenian media, without any hidden owners, as well as greater media pluralism and less concentration of media ownership under just a few people.”