“Every government wants to control the media, but since this, the current government, has crossed all boundaries, it seems to me that they went into the elections with the maxim that they were bringing freedom and that they were ending some supposed dictatorship that the previous government was supposedly running. Now we see that they themselves are behaving in a completely opposite way to what they had promised,” Pertinač revealed the duplicity of the ruling party.
On this week’s episode of the show Arena, entitled “The abolition of memory and media (non)freedom” (you can watch the episode in Slovenian here), the TV show host Igor Pirkovič hosted Jana Grohar on the show, the defender of the memory of three victims of communism. Pirkovič first reminded the audience that this is a person who lost three of her relatives to communism. They were three men who had fled to Austrian Carinthia and were returned to Yugoslavia, where they were murdered. The youngest, Lovre, her uncle and her mother’s brother, was imprisoned in Šentvid and later released for being underage, but was then insidiously shot on his way home. His remains were never found. The other was his older brother, France Kunstelj, a priest. He also returned to Yugoslavia by train, which he decided to do of his own accord, even though he knew what was happening in Slovenia. He did not want to leave his fellow prisoners behind. In Teharje, he was “tortured and killed in a very brutal way” by the Communists. “I think it was because he was a priest and because he was faithfully doing his pastoral work.”
“The communists cut off his hands and mangled him to death! He died a martyr’s death!”
“The Communists cut off his hands and mangled him to death! He died a martyr’s death! What we do know is that his remains are under a rubbish dump near Celje!” she said in a sobbing voice. “The third was my husband’s uncle, who was also returned to Šentvid, where he was last seen loaded on a lorry, stripped and taken to an unknown destination.” She also commented on the infamous words of the coalition Left party (Levica) MP Matej Tašner Vatovec, when he justified the abolition of the Day of Remembrance for the Victims of Communism. She was very happy that the guardians of remembrance met at the commemoration ceremony in front of the Parliament. They came together to commemorate all the victims of communism, and they made no distinction between the victims. “Victims are victims, whatever their beliefs.” If someone had done something wrong, they should have been convicted, she said. But their memory cannot be taken away from the people they left behind, because they are human, and they depend on that memory. She believes that our country also depends on this memory, without which it cannot function. The descendants of the criminals, she said, are fiercely resisting the truth, which the descendants of the murdered are still seeking, while the former are trying to prevent it from ever coming to light. She is convinced that evil must not be allowed to happen again, and that anger and vengeance cannot solve it. In her experience, the relatives of the murdered bear the heavy consequences of post-war crimes.
The second guest in the studio was Aljuš Pertinač, host of the TV3 show Faktor. Pirkovič began by recalling that the latter had allegedly insulted the Speaker of the National Assembly, Urška Klakočar Zupančič, in an episode of his show. The episode in question included a psychoanalyst Roman Vodeb‘s analysis of the psychological profile of the Speaker of the National Assembly, and the police fined him 250 euros for it. Afterwards, the Agency for Communication Networks and Services of the Republic of Slovenia (AKOS) even sent him a 20-page notice of initiation of an inspection procedure. Pirkovič recalled Golob’s words that “the liberation of RTV is the only commitment they will insist on.” Prikovič thus wondered: “Are they also liberating Faktor on TV3?” To which Pertinač responded: “To make a joke of the situation for a bit, we are already liberated, but otherwise, it is true. The Speaker of the National Assembly was disturbed by some content on one of our programmes and initiated two proceedings against us.” She filed a police report and a report with the competent agency – AKOS, he explained. Law enforcement authorities decided that Vodeb had behaved in a violent and offensive manner and fined him. AKOS, however, accused Vodeb and Pertinač of “dehumanising the female gender.”
Golob promised us freedom, but we got the exact opposite!
Pertinač: “I am being accused of this because I asked a question on the show about whether Slovenia can survive Nataša Pirc Musar and Urška Klakočar Zupančič in the two most important positions.” The Arena presenter believes that the AKOS document can be summarised in two points, as it is all just a repetition of the same content. AKOS also accused Pertinač of provoking Vodeb by saying, “what do the red stilettos mean when worn by the Speaker of the National Assembly?” The agency believes that Pertinač is developing a theory of the inferiority of the female sex. He has also been accused of deliberately inciting hatred against persons of the female sex. “The person who wrote this is an external employee of the Agency and is not called upon to judge what is the correct psychoanalysis, and that is also what we wrote to them in our response.” What is more worrying is the fact that the Agency for Communication Networks and Services has no proper knowledge of television itself. “Our show is live, and there can be no pre-scripts in this type of show. Certainly, in programmes like the show Factor, the presenter challenges the commentator, but with the intention of saying something, of telling the truth. Even in your show, we don’t just talk to pass the time …” Although the proceedings are not yet final, Vodeb is confident that he will succeed in his appeal to the police, just as former politician Pavle Gantar did in a similar case …
Every authority wants to control the media, Pertinač believes. But the current government has crossed all boundaries, because it came to the elections with the maxim that it was bringing freedom and that it was ending a supposed dictatorship of the previous government. “Now we see that they themselves are behaving in a completely opposite way,” Pertinač denounced the duplicity of the ruling party. He believes that a country is in really bad shape when a high-ranking political figure initiates certain procedures out of spite, and then “in principle and in letter, these independent institutions follow these sentiments. If Klakočar Zupančič really thought that there was something wrong with that programme or with the conversation between Vodeb and me, she should have initiated some other procedures. She should have demanded that the content be taken down, but it is still available on Youtube for everyone to see.” If her honour or reputation had been genuinely harmed, or if there had been a criminal offence, she would have demanded that the material be taken down. But since the Speaker of the National Assembly knows that none of this is true, she has resorted to a procedure that is now unique in Slovenia: when a politician does not like what is being reported about them, he or she sends the police after the person who said it and fines the latter 250 euros.
“It is not good for any government to control the media!”
Pirkovič recalled that in the case of the show Faktor and his interlocutors, the procedure was very fast. “Everyone can ask themselves what this means for media freedom and freedom of speech in Slovenia.” It is clear to everyone that the government is “tightening the noose around the neck” of critical media, Pirkovič believes. But Pertinač believes that even the Freedom Movement party (Gibanje Svoboda) supporters cannot ignore the fact that the government is trying to increase its influence over the media. “The house where our conversation is taking place is a typical example of this, we cannot get past it.” We cannot say that this is a conspiracy theory. But it is impossible for the authorities to control all the media, unless we are talking about North Korea. Just as it is not good for any government to control the media, Pertinač added. He believes that people are not stupid, and if they keep hearing only one side of the story, they can see that things are not working as they should. As a result, no government stays in power for long. The Faktor programme had big problems already in the time of the government of Marjan Šarec, when he called for state-owned companies not to advertise in certain media. But the Golob government is tackling the issue on an individual level.
During the terms of the Janša governments, Faktor was never addressed through the institutions, at most, Janša personally made a statement about it on Twitter. The behaviour of the Speaker of the National Assembly will not deter Vodeb and Pertinač from future criticism of the government. “The authorities, who have to deal with some really rare (if we look at the Slovenian media landscape and the current government) criticism in this way, instead of thinking to themselves that what they are doing on behalf of all of us, they should be doing for the best interests of all citizens… They should get used to the idea that if they are in privileged positions, then they should be able to take criticism.” Pertinač thus rejects the accusations of spreading hatred, as Faktor is the show that actively seeks to create dialogue in our society and in tries to do so in a conciliatory tone.