On Thursday, the National Assembly ordered a parliamentary investigation into the political responsibility of public office holders due to the suspicion of illegal funding of party campaigns for the last parliamentary elections through the operations of media outlets that are owned, partially owned, or in some way influenced by political parties, officials and members of bodies of political parties, and media outlets owned by entities from abroad, the Slovenian Press Agency reports. The investigative commission will supposedly be headed by a member of the Freedom Movement party (Gibanje svoboda), Mojca Šetinc Pašek.
On Thursday, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Urška Klakočar Zupančič, dramatically interrupted the session for 15 minutes, as she was shocked by a recording shown by the previously “independent” journalist turned MP, Mojca Šetinc Pašek. It was a recording of the Tuesday episode of the Nova24TV show “Who Is Lying to You” (Kdo vam laže), to which viewers can also call in and express their opinions. “There is lots of slander, insults, discreditations, manipulations and lies about everyone who is at any moment standing in the way or is a disruptive element on the path to power and authority of a single party and its infallible leader,” Šetinc Pašek described the operating of our media outlet, even though this description could just as easily be applied to the public media outlet RTV Slovenia, which, on top of everything else, also claims to be independent, while its actions prove the exact opposite to be true. According to the journalist/Member of Parliament, in the recent episode of the show Who Is Lying to You, there were clear calls to violence, which encouraged the use of weapons in order to deal with political competition. This is also why she handed the video over to the police. Namely, one viewer of the show was outraged by the stupid current government and pointed out that the fight for Slovenia will apparently be repeated.
In response to the investigative commission of the first signatory Pašek Šetinc, MP Žan Mahnič shared two examples of Martin Odlazek’s media outlets. He listed the sponsored titles of articles from two media outlets that appeared on social networks, namely, articles from the “Uncensored” (Necenzurirano) and “World24” (Svet24) web portals. “Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) and Janša are going after Golob with the help of foreign informants and manipulation,” “In the Municipality of Slovenj Gradec, they warned the SDS party that it needs to withdraw its advertisements and stop misleading the people,” “For the SDS party, impartial journalists can only be those who idolise Janez Janša,” “Janša violated the law by appointing Matoz to the board of directors of the Bank Assets Management Company,” “Did Janša’s move threaten the security of Slovenia,” “Šarec advises Janša to put on the uniform from 1991 and rush to Ukraine himself.” These are just some of the headlines that the aforementioned media outlets published, and it is quite clear that Odlazek only finances articles that talk badly about Janez Janša and the SDS party. His media outlets don’t really write about anything else, and there is not a single article in Odlazek’s media that would talk badly about or be critical of the left-wing structures.
Covert financing of Odlazek’s media
“Small people cast huge shadows over our country,” “Why the SDS party is sending Hojs to the pre-election debates,” “They are sending inspectors to look into Nika Kovač, but in reality, they are the ones breaking the rules,” “Radonjić, a fighter against the allegedly crooked judicial system, got a new position with the help of Matoz,” “Public money for the financing of SDS’s pamphlets,” “SDS opened an account in a Russian bank two days before the beginning of the war,” “Janša once again made personnel changes in the hospital where his wife, Urška Bačovnik Janša, works,” Mahnič then listed some other titles from the Uncensored web portal. He also pointed out that even today, it is still not known where the money for the financing of the web portal in question comes from, since they have virtually no advertisements on their website, but at the same time, we can hear commercials for the Uncensored web portal being played several times a day on radio stations such as Aktual, Veseljak, and so on. The question here is – who is paying for all of this?
Let us also remind you that the Gen-I energy company, where the current Prime Minister, Robert Golob, used to be President of the Management Board, still refuses to disclose the contract that would reveal how much money they have transferred to the journalist who works an Uncensored, which we have already reported on. In addition to the Gen-I company, the company of journalist Vesna Vuković was allegedly also being financed by the future Minister of Finance, Klemen Boštjančič, who supposedly transferred 34 thousand euros to the company through his advisory centre Brio. But this is obviously not a problem, because the journalists of these media outlets are merely the executors of instructions of certain structures – their only task is to attack the SDS party, Janša, and sometimes the New Slovenia party (NSi) as often as they can. “Covert unpaid implementation of advertising content and other forms of political propaganda,” Mahnič once again read part of the title of the parliamentary commission’s investigation and concluded: “Well, that is it!” With this, he also asked whether the case of Odlazek’s network of companies, including the Uncensored web portal and everything else, will also be investigated. Regarding the financing of political propaganda, Mahnič also explained that, for example, Radio Sora has to report its content and create its own programme, while Odlazek’s empire, unlike them, can create one piece of news, which is then distributed by several media outlets, and when it comes to the “authorial” programme, each radio station then gets money for it separately – even though this is one and the same recycled piece of content.
“Partially owned, or in some way influenced by political parties, officials and members of bodies of political parties,” Mahnič read the other part of the title of the parliamentary investigation, and after that, he read Article 74 of the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia, which talks about entrepreneurship. Among other things, the Article states that economic initiative is free, so the MP does not believe it is a problem if a politician is also a shareholder in a media company. It is true, however, that some politicians do not have this need – as they have their own journalists in the media and control 98 percent of the media landscape. Currently, the left-wing structures control only 96 percent of the public media outlet RTV Slovenia, and the 4 percent that they need to achieve complete dominance clearly represents a big problem for them. Mahnič also pointed out that he finds it problematic if, for example, a journalist whose husband works for Mercator would report on Mercator.
According to Mahnič, before the parliamentary investigation, we should first ask ourselves why the laws are not harmonised with the Constitution, where it is stated that “acts of unfair competition and actions that, contrary to the law, limit competition, are prohibited.” How is it possible that Odlazek owns such a large portion of the media landscape? In October 2021, the Parliamentary Committee for Culture, at the request of the SDS and SMC parties, discussed media ownership in Slovenia and the concentration of media space. At the time, the opposition was not interested in the topic and committee members from the List of Marjan Šarec party, the Social Democrats party, the Party of Alenka Bratušek and the Left party even obstructed the meeting. Among other things, the committee proposed to the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia to check the media purchases within Odlazek’s group. Mahnič pointed out that at the time, they even called on the Competition Protection Agency to play a more active role in preventing media concentration – but they did nothing.
Last October, the committee called on the Ministry of Culture to prepare appropriate legislation that would prevent media concentration and suggested that it ensure a more proportionate distribution of state funds for all areas of media creation and development, and that it conduct an analysis of the state of the Slovenian media space. It called on the Ministry of the Economy, asking it to call on the Competition Protection Agency, within the framework of its powers, to play a more active role in preventing media concentration. It called on the parliamentary investigation committee too, which is investigating abuses and uneconomic behaviour in the Bank Assets Management Company, to prioritise the issue of its share of ownership in Salomon and inform the committee of its key findings. The committee instructed the Agency for Communication Networks and Services of the Republic of Slovenia to check the originally issued licenses to all radio stations with the current situation in this area and report on this to the Committee on Culture within one month. The committee also proposed to the competent authorities, especially the Financial Administration of the Republic of Slovenia, to check the purchases of individual companies of Martin Odlazek’s media group in the last five years, namely the magazine Reporter, newspaper Primorske novice, and radio network Infonet, as well as many others.
Will the commission also investigate other, much more pressing cases?
Considering that the parliamentary committee will also supposedly investigate the operation of media owned by legal and natural persons from abroad, Mahnič said that he expects the operations of Pro Plus media company, which is also foreign-owned, to be investigated as well. Let us also remind you that, according to unofficial information, the Competition Protection Agency is said to have initiated proceedings against the company Pro Plus, because it is said to condition the delivery of its programmes on potentially controversial requirements. There is also another proceeding currently happening against Pro Plus, namely, the Telekom Slovenija company filed a lawsuit against the media company, due to a disputed contract between the two entities in question. Telekom accuses Pro Plus of drawing up a contract that cannot be terminated unilaterally, while Pro Plus is also offering packages at an unfair and excessive price, and Telekom also believes that it is being treated differently from other operators. Telekom therefore concluded that in 2016, Pro Plus took advantage of its dominant position on the market and concluded a contract with unreasonably high compensation for the broadcasting of its programmes. Telekom assessed that this was a theft of state money, which Telekom manages.
In 2016, when the Telekom Supervisory Board was led by Borut Jamnik and the Management Board was led by Rudolf Skobe, Telekom signed a contract with the company Pro Plus, which then dramatically increased the compensation for the broadcasting of its five television programmes on Telekom’s network – it increased it by a factor of 12. On the 21st of January 2017, the Competition Protection Agency instituted proceedings against the company Pro Plus, as it established a violation of Article 9 of the Prevention of Restriction of Competition Act and Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, due to Pro Plus’s abuse of a dominant position. The process is still not over, and we have already reported on this several times. But apparently, Šetinc Pašek only sees the fact that Telekom allegedly paid compensation to Nova24TV as problematic.
According to the Slovenian Press Agency, the Slovenian Democratic Party believes that this is a warning to all new and independent media outlets that they will be destroyed if they do not work according to the dictates of left-leaning politics and economics. The coalition’s request seems like the beginning of a witch hunt, they assessed. “I never called for violence; I did just the opposite. I did not call for violence on Tuesday either. Any other interpretations are malicious. But the problem is that the Freedom Movement coalition is afraid of people’s dissatisfaction and peaceful gatherings. That is why they are trying to silence me. But they will not succeed,” the host of the show that started this whole thing, Boris Tomašič, wrote on Twitter.
And lastly, it should also be mentioned that before the elections, POP TV wrote exclusively positive articles about the current Prime Minister, Robert Golob, so we should also wonder whether the advertising of the Gen-I company and other state-owned companies that advertise in this media outlet also affected their tone of reporting. Will the commission look into this as well, or is the one and only goal of this commission only the “investigating” of the Slovenian Democratic Party and Janez Janša – to which the obstruction of the previous opposition points, as they obviously did not care about this topic when the commission wanted to investigate their political structures. Given that the SDS party has already been investigated several times, but nobody has managed to find anything controversial in eight years, we can conclude that this is more about the show, as the current coalition will likely not have the willpower nor the time to deal with more serious matters. If anything, it would be worth investigating how the political campaign of the Freedom Movement was financed.