“To me, this Radio-Television Slovenia Programme Council seems an awful lot like the councils before 1990 – or the councils of the previous regime. In a way, we got a replica of the previous regime. And whether I like it or not – when I look at it, I cannot claim otherwise,” columnist Bernard Nežmah said on a recent episode of the show “Beremo” (Reading).
On this week’s episode of the show “Beremo,” presenter Metod Berlec hosted the columnist and TV commentator Bernard Nežmah as his guest. Among other things, the interlocutors talked about the field of journalism, especially in light of recent events at the national media outlet Radio-Television Slovenia (RTVS). Berlec recalled the journalists’ strike at the public media outlet, where it was very apparent that with the journalists on strike, only their partial truth counts. Nežmah: “Of course, media activism is a problem, especially when someone says he or she is fighting for good ideas, but now he or she just has to realise it through their articles or TV reports.” Nežmah tends to believe that there are not only negative or positive ideas. The key here is to maintain objectivism. In the media, it is crucial to present both sides of a story, regardless of whether someone is closer to one side of the story or the other. It is also crucial to understand a concrete phenomenon. In addition, it is also important to avoid focusing only on the weak points of a particular phenomenon and neglecting its key aspects.
Nežmah also touched on the new Programme Council of RTV Slovenia, where they say they are “the best Council so far,” while at the same time claiming that they will elect “the best director of all time.” “That’s what they say about themselves. But is that something we can measure? We need to put the matter in a broader context, to look at their actions, to compare them with others. In the case of this council, we can very clearly see what their voting system is, as it works on the principle of ‘all in favour, none against’… One cannot help but wonder why 17 councillors are needed at all,” Nežmah shared his observation. He went on to talk about the history of the previous RTV Slovenia programme councils (since 1990). In his opinion, we have never had anything like what we have today. In the past, the RTVS councils have been diverse, and conflicts of ideas have always been an important part of them. Nežmah: “To me, this Radio-Television Slovenia Programme Council seems an awful lot like the councils before 1990 – or the councils of the previous regime. In a way, we got a replica of the previous regime. And whether I like it or not – when I look at it, I cannot claim otherwise.”
Moreover, it is also quite noticeable to everyone that different actors are not treated with the same criteria at the national media outlet. For example, when Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić verbally attacked an RTV journalist, the media responded to it critically. However, when Prime Minister Robert Golob did something similar to a Demokracija journalist, there was no condemnation of his actions to be heard. “I can no longer call this ‘fair’ journalism,” Nežmah explained. Another pressing problem of the media, he said, is the praises they sing to certain political actors, over-praising them, etc. He went on to point out that in the last few months, we have witnessed tremendous pressure from the ruling coalition on the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Slovenia to rule quickly on the controversial amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act and that Prime Minister Golob had also been urging the court for a swift decision. Berlec also commented on this, saying: “We have witnessed extraordinary pressure; if the previous Prime Minister Janez Janša had done something like this, the Slovenian media space, especially the left-wing activists, would have gone crazy.”
Part of the RTV journalists believed in the fantasy that under Janša, they were living in terror
“In this particular case, we have seen the Constitutional Court, or at least four of its judges, kneel down, overturn an earlier decision that had been adopted by five Constitutional Court judges, and the ruling coalition has succeeded in initiating the final takeover of our public television.” Nežmah also notes that the mainstream media do not measure Janša‘s moves by the same criteria as Golob’s. He finds it amazing how many journalists went on strike … And they said that their problem was that they were in some disciplinary proceedings, albeit without an epilogue. Nežmah could not recall the same strong protests happening in the past. He recalled that during the Janša government, there was a perception among some journalists that, because of the government of the time, they were living in a state of terror. However, this was certainly not the reality, as journalists could protest during the previous government’s term and even call for Janša’s death. “In times of real terror, the mainstream newspapers did not, for example, write ‘Hitler is a criminal’ … In a situation where it is possible to protest against the authorities, there is a maximum of tolerance present.” In the case of the various daily newspapers, where there were indeed a large number of dismissals, Nežmah did not see any opposition at all.
Those RTV Slovenia journalists who protested did not face any sanctions for their actions at all. Nežmah also touched on the Constitutional Court’s own ruling in the case of the Radio-Television Slovenia Act, which he considers to not be in line with the law, and it will be very appropriate for a higher European institution to take up the matter. In addition, Nežmah is also concerned about the fact that senior Constitutional Court judges have in the past thought about their own reputation, being aware that a case might come before the European Court, and this has influenced their moves. The current Constitutional Court judges do not seem to have this concern. “You decided to change a system that has worked for 20 years, only for the sake of changing it, and then say a priori that some other system, which we have no prior experience with, is ideal.” This is also the way the new RTV Slovenia Programme Council operates, invoking some absolute authority, such as the Ombudsman of Human Rights. Nežmah then also pointed out that the country is governed not by the best, but by the one who has convinced the most people in the elections. But that does not give him the right to reckon with the past, to change institutions, and so on. Nežmah: “This is not good; in a way, it is a soft variant of the coming of communism.”