Parliament launches inquiry into financing of “party propaganda in media”

Ljubljana – The National Assembly launched on Thursday a parliamentary inquiry into suspicions of illegal financing of “party political propaganda in the media with funds of state-owned companies, state institutions or foreign institutions or entities” targeting media owned by or linked with the SDS.

The inquiry, requested by the coalition and covering the period from 13 March 2020 to the present, will investigate the suspicion of illegal financing of campaigns of political parties for the 24 April general election.

It will look at “activities of publishers of media outlets owned or partially owned or under the influence of political parties, members of political party bodies and media publishers owned by foreign entities”.

One of the specific topics of investigation is the alleged damage to the state at the owner of the telecoms incumbent Telekom Slovenije, which the coalition claims is paying a disproportionally high fee to include certain SDS-friendly programmes in its TV package.

The MPs also want to investigate the circumstances of the financing of the media companies, Nova Hiša, Nova Obzorja Založništvo and TV Adria, and to determine whether the SDS was illegally financed from abroad in this connection.

Direct or indirect advertising by government bodies and ministries, public institutions, agencies and public funds, and state-owned companies managed by Slovenian Sovereign Holding will also be investigated.

The coalition wants to see whether advertising contracts were concluded in contravention to market logic, and whether they were concluded for the purpose of financing media publishers.

The inquiry would determine the possible political responsibility of public office holders who allegedly influenced or were involved in suspected illegal conduct or enabled them or failed to act in line with their powers in this regard.

Another objective is to possibly amend legislation governing the media, political parties and election campaign.

The inquiry will be led by Freedom Movement MP Mojca Pašek Šetinc, who was a journalist at public broadcaster RTV Slovenija before running for MP.

While the coalition says the aim is to determine any wrongdoing, the SDS has labelled the inquiry as “intimidation” of media that are different and of the directors of state-owned companies.

The inquiry comes in the aftermath of a series of media reports about questionable advertising practices of several ministries and other public bodies that disproportionately benefited media with links to the SDS.