Broadcasting Council proposes sanctions for fake news

Ljubljana – The parliamentary Culture Committee reviewed the report of the Broadcasting Council for the past year at a session on Monday, including the council’s recommendation to set down sanctions for fake news in a law. Some of the participants in the debate maintained that would be in contravention of the freedom of speech.

Presenting the report, the head of the Broadcasting Council Aleš Lipičnik said many media and their staff had to make a tremendous effort to suitably perform their mission during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The council urged the media and politics as well as experts to communicate with the public in a professional, consistent, logical and decent manner and to thoroughly consider the weight and the significance of the information they impart and its consequences and to be aware of their social responsibility.

The council noted that only accurate and unbiased information and reporting guarantee the constitutional right to being informed. It believes a provision should be introduced into media law to ban media from inaccurate reporting and to impose sanctions for violations.

The council also expects that as part of the planned media reform the option should be considered to introduce a tax on digital services to impose levies on incomes of large online services providers.

Moreover, the council warned that some government departments advertise in media that are not registered in the media register in Slovenia – the cases being of the Agriculture Ministry in HGTV and the Ministry of Defence in FOX.

Ignacija Fridl Jarc, a state secretary at the Ministry of Culture, said the Broadcasting Council’s report went in the right direction, but she said the idea to tackle the problem of fake news by means of a law would go against the constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.

Marko Bandelli, and MP for the opposition Alenka Bratušek Party (SAB), wondered why the National Assembly debated annual reports from the council at all when they could not do anything based on those reports.

The opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) supported the council’s appeals over fake news with MP Lidija Divjak Mirnik also rising attacks on political opponents and the issue of polarisation, which she said was being helped by the “mouthpieces” owned by one party.

Lipičnik said regulating fake news in such a way would not violate the freedom of speech. “Anyone can say what they want but they have to make it clear when they talk about facts and when about opinions.”

Alenka Jeraj, an MP for the ruling Democrats (SDS), said the government wanted to amend the media law but nothing came out of it because of a “hue and cry” raised at the attempt.

A fellow party member, Mojca Škrinjar, maintained that political polarisation was not necessarily bad; if half the media in the country are left and half right everyone will have a choice to see what they want.

Violeta Tomić of the opposition Left said it was ludicrous to talk about left and right media when the only distinction was between credible and non-credible media. She opined that fake news was generated deliberately to create negative trends to certain groups in society.

She hailed the council’s proposal to tax digital giants where she said the state was losing millions.