EP Democracy Group hearing on Slovenian media scheduled for next week

Flags waving in front of the European Parliament in Strasbourg

Ljubljana – Prime Minister Janez Janša and other Slovenian officials have been invited for a virtual exchange of views on the media in the country with the European Parliament’s Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group on 5 March.

The group’s head, Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew), confirmed for the STA on Wednesday that invitations had been sent out for 5 March, although she did not name the invitees.

The MEP told TV Slovenija a few days ago that apart from the prime minister, the country’s culture minister and the director of the Government Communication Office and representatives of the media would be invited for an exchange of views.

At the time she said the officials would be invited for the group to hear out their views. “For us it’s not important whether they belong to right or left. Important are facts, discussions, so that we know what is going on,” she said.

In her explanations to the STA today, in ‘t Veld noted that her group is monitoring several countries as well as horizontal topics, underscoring that monitoring “is not a one-off event, but a process”.

Depending on the findings and the situation, there may be follow-up actions in the form of a written report to the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), of which her group is part, or a plenary resolution.

“In addition to the hearing, we will use various sources of information to follow closely the situation, and we also make use of the instrument of written follow-up questions and possibly further hearings,” explained in ‘t Veld, adding that fact finding missions are part of their toolkit, although travel is currently not possible.

In the case of Malta and Slovakia the group has undertaken several missions, and in ‘t Veld hopes that later this year they can carry out further missions to both countries, as well as to Bulgaria.

The LIBE committee has also undertaken rule of law fact finding missions to Poland and Hungary.

The group headed by Sophie in ‘t Veld decided to monitor the situation in Slovenia after PM Janša, in a Twitter post, accused Lili Bayer, the author of a Politco article on the media situation in Slovenia, of being “instructed not to tell the truth”.

Janša’s attack on the journalist has drawn widespread condemnation, including from the European Commission, which said that hatred, threats and personal attacks on journalists are unacceptable.

“What we hear from Slovenia is unfortunate and disturbing,” Finnish Minister for European Affairs Minister Tytti Tuppurainen told Politico, adding: “We expect the future presidency to uphold our common values, media freedom included. Any erosion of this puts the credibility of the Union as a whole in jeopardy.”

Janša’s contentious tweets were also discussed on the Foreign Policy Committee of the Slovenian National Assembly on Wednesday with Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan disagreeing with an opposition MP that the tweeting was damaging Slovenia’s reputation in the run-up to the country’s presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of this year.

Dovžan said that journalists were writing what they were writing about the situation in Slovenia, but the Foreign Ministry was taking care of Slovenia’s reputation. “The developments show there is media freedom in Slovenia and everyone can say what they think.”