MEPs address to govt series of questions about media freedom, other topics

Ljubljana/Brussels – The European Parliament’s democracy monitoring group has addressed almost fifty written questions to the Slovenian government, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti, as it is trying to fully assess media freedom in Slovenia.

The follow-up questions were sent out on 31 March after the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group met to discuss the media situation in the country on 26 March.

At the time Janša and Simoniti were expected to present their views virtually, but the group’s head Sophie in ‘t Veld declined to allow Janša to first show a video.

As a result, he declined to take part, accusing the Dutch MEP of censorship, while the group also failed to establish a video link with Simoniti, whose ministry is in charge of media policy.

In ‘t Veld then announced dialogue would continue, including with the written questionnaire and the group studying the material it had received from Slovenian stakeholders, including Janša’s video.

The questions concern a range of topics from media freedom, the judiciary and coronavirus restrictions to NGO funding, and staffing.

The MEPs are particularly interested in the proposed media reform, especially in relation to public outlets RTV Slovenija and STA, and the extent of hate speech.

Some questions concern Janša’s attitude towards the media, including his last year’s vlog War with the Media and labelling two journalists prostitutes.

The MEPs would also like to know more about Hungarian foundation KESMA’s alleged ownership stakes in Janša’s SDS party’s media outlets, and STA funding suspension.

Some questions are about Slovenia’s upcoming EU presidency, with MEPs inquiring how Slovenia would act regarding the “Article 7” procedure against Hungary and Poland.

The questions come from MEPs from the groupings of the S&D, Renew and Greens, while only one questions comes from the EPP, to which Janša’s SDS is affiliated.

They are available at https://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/231681/DFRMG 31.03.2021 – Follow-up questions to SL authorities.pdf

The group monitoring the media situation in Slovenia is part of the Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

It has so far met twice, on 5 and 26 March, to discuss it with several Slovenian stakeholders, who presented their takes on the situation.

Janša said on Twitter today that the group “has no authority to question anyone”. “We attended the debate on the matter voluntarily and we expect censor Sophie in ‘t Veld to translate to members the video we have sent.”

He referred to the video about attacks on media and journalists which he insisted should be screened as part of the debate on 26 March, whereas in ‘t Veld refused to allow that. She did say, however, the video could be shown at the end of the debate. Janša responded by accusing her of censorship.

The prime minister’s office later said that Janša and Simoniti would forward responses to the group’s questions after the video was screened at a public session of the Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.