During the time of the Janša government, for two years, we saw more or less aggressive anti-government protests happen on a regular basis. Pyrotechnics were even used against police officers, and some protesters even fought with the officers. People’s property was destroyed across Ljubljana. But now that the protests are directed against the Golob government, the protesters are being portrayed as criminals and troublemakers, and the people in power as victims. For two years, we were told that the streets are the defence line of democracy because all state institutions had supposedly been usurped by “fascists” anyway – but now the tables have turned. The government’s rhetoric is strongly supported by the mainstream media, including the biggest commercial television station.
Some of the biggest manipulations in reporting are tricks that are overlooked by most readers and are, therefore, particularly reprehensible. In the case of the web portal of the largest commercial television channel, a targeted focus on a selected reporting subject is used/abused for this purpose. If during the Janez Janša government, the focus was on the “inappropriate” behaviour of the police and the government, while the protesters were portrayed as victims, now it is the other way round. The firefighters, who protested in front of the National Assembly because of their low wages (they can barely support their families, they barely get through the month …), were portrayed as villains, corrupters and hooligans, while the police were barely mentioned this time …
On the other hand, representatives of the authorities – Minister Sanja Ajanović Hovnik and Minister Marjan Šarec – are portrayed as victims. This is something that would have never happened in the case of former ministers – Aleš Hojs and Matej Tonin. Incidentally, it is worth recalling the sacrifice of the firefighters during the recent fires in the Karst region, when government representatives were boasting about their successes, etc. Now they have simply forgotten about them. It seems that the government sees them as “disposable goods.” The headline on the commercial TV’s web portal highlighted the Minister’s words that “objects were being thrown at her,” followed by the words of the firefighters’ trade union representative, David Švarc, that “they were not invited to the rally.”
This is professional manipulation: the aim is to portray firefighters as troublemakers who brutally attack anyone who is not wanted. The opening sentence of the article also attempts to devalue the work of the firefighters and to divert attention from their demands to the protest itself: “A protest unworthy of firefighters and bad folklore was the government’s assessment of the protest rally of professional firefighters, who used pyrotechnics, lit fires, booed Minister Ajanović Hovnik, who left the protest accompanied by the police, as well as the president of the professional firefighters’ union, David Švarc. Did the firefighters cross the line and endanger the Minister’s safety at the rally?” Now let’s just remember how Janez Janša was threatened in the past (for example, at Kredarica) and how MP Jožef Horvat was spat at in public …
“The debate on the execution of the rally is an attempt to divert attention from the issues we protested about”
And who really cared about Hojs’s safety when he had to go to a hooligans’ protest accompanied by the police? But the commercial TV reacted strongly to his accusations against the media that they had contributed to the riots. David Švarc, the president of the professional firefighters’ trade union, dismissed claims that objects had been thrown towards the ministers: “By discussing the execution of the rally, they are now trying to divert attention from the issues we protested about.” He added that although the Minister was not invited to the rally and wanted to speak, she was allowed to do so. Švarc: “I told her that she could not speak in the middle of the rally, that the firefighters were speaking today, but that she would speak at the end. But what she said made the boys even more unhappy.”
There is also a clear double standard on the political left, not just in the left-wing media. Before the elections, the left was always willing to hear the needs of the protesters, but now there is no chemistry left between the protesters and the leftists… If before the elections, the left gave (even violent) protests a (tacit) boost, now they portray themselves as the victims of the protesters. Šarec: “A protest is a legitimate form of action. Today’s events sadden me as a firefighter. Today at the protest, we saw heavy use of pyrotechnics. I was shocked to see how the Minister had to leave the scene because objects started flying towards her.” What is also interesting are the escapades of government representatives who try to join the protests and thus basically protest against themselves – this time, it was both of the aforementioned ministers.
We turned to the professional firefighters with questions to further explain the circumstances of the protest. We will publish the answers when we receive them.