CIVICUS warns of Janša’s pressure on civil society, media

Ljubljana – CIVICUS, an international organisation of NGOs, warns in its latest report of the attitude of Prime Minister Janez Janša and the Democrats (SDS) towards the civil society and media. It expresses concern over government attacks on the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and a ban on protests.

In a report published on Thursday, CIVICUS lists several examples of government pressure on people’s freedoms, the civil society and media.

It highlights the law on de-bureaucratisation, noting that the “super law” with provisions that would change 20 other laws and abolish more than 200 has been drawn up without any public consultation, and was neither in accordance with the Constitution, nor with the system of law making in Slovenia.

CIVICUS says the law introduces electronic service consignments in administrative and civil proceedings, including the collection of phone numbers and emails, cap on social security contributions and the speeding up of the issuance of fines.

The NGOs also warn of continuous attacks by the government and the SDS on non-governmental organisations, including through spreading of misleading or false information and plans for evicting several NGOs from the building on Metelkova Street, allegedly due to renovation.

“Whilst the NGOs have managed to successfully litigate to preserve their rights via a complaint to the Constitutional Court, the government continues to undermine CSOs through inserting similar restrictions in other bills, which are now up for parliamentary consideration.”

The report also mentions a Constitutional Court complaint over a ban on protests as part of Covid-19 measures, and the criminal procedure against Maribor high-school students who protested against school closure.

A large part of the report is dedicated to attacks on the media. It points to State Secretary for National Security Žan Mahnič’s threatening to Delo newspaper’s Brussels correspondent, Peter Žerjavič, via Twitter.

Janša has also accused public broadcaster RTV Slovenija of spreading lies and misleading the public, and made similar comments on Twitter about Lili Bayer, a journalist of web portal Politico, the reports says.

It notes that the government again suspended financing of the STA this year and continues to exert pressure on its management, and is “gradually working to dismantle the agency”.

CIVICUS mentions the attempt by the Government Communication Office to prevent ministers and government representatives to appear in the media and Janša’s failure to take part in a videoconference of the European Parliament’s Democracy, Rule of Law & Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group.

Seated in South Africa, CIVICUS comprises more than 8,500 associations and organisations from 175 countries. Its purpose is to strengthen civil societies around the world. It was founded in 1993.

The CNVOS umbrella network of Slovenian NGOs said the latest report had been drawn up as part of the Civic Space Watch project led by the European Civic Forum. As part of the project information on the situation in European countries is gathered and analysed, using different sources such as NGOs, reports and media articles.