"The prime minister has confirmed that the Association of Journalists has been warning with regard to the advertising of state-owned firms back in the election campaign," the association said on Monday.
The statement comes after Šarec called on state-owned companies to consider pulling their ads from media that are spreading hateful content. "It's true that media freedom and the freedom of speech are pillars of democracy, but this hardly means they are unlimited."
Šarec's comment referred to an ongoing campaign by activists urging state-owned firms, in particular Pošta Slovenije and Telekom Slovenije, to pull their ads from several right-wing media, most notably the news and TV station portal Nova24TV and the magazine Demokracija. Both are or were directly or indirectly controlled by the opposition Democrats (SDS).
The association said "media connected to the strongest parliamentary party" have been spearheading hate speech, their covers and content "promoting not only intolerance but explicitly inciting against individual groups of people such as migrants, gays and women and attacking everyone advocating human rights."
Such media are also "deliberately creating a climate of hatred towards journalists and the media," which is an "inadmissible practice not only facilitated by the state but openly promoted via companies in significant or majority ownership of the Republic of Slovenia, which are the most important advertisers in these media."
The reaction comes after the smaller association, the Association of Journalists and Commentators, many members of which work for the media in question, described Šarec's appeal as an unprecedented pressure on the media that "dangerously reminiscent of the recent era of media censorship."
Šarec's statement also triggered a wave of condemnation from right-wing pundits and free speech activists on social media, who see it as a return to an era where the state had the ultimate say on what could be published.