Brussels – The Brussels-based web portal Politico has published an extensive analysis of the media situation in Slovenia based on talks with Slovenian journalists and foreign observers, in which it says that “Prime Minister Janez Janša’s attacks create climate of fear”. It adds that Janša is waging a big campaign against journalists he does not like.
In the article published on Tuesday, Politico labels Janša a “right-wing populist leader, an admirer of Donald Trump”, who has referred to the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) as a “national disgrace”.
It furthermore notes that the prime minister had accused the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija of spreading “lies” and misleading the public, and had tweeted that “obviously there are too many of you and you are paid too well.”
And just this month, the prime minister called RTV Slovenija, along with a private broadcaster, “irresponsible virus spreaders,” Politico adds.
The influential portal says that Janša’s campaign has gone beyond rhetoric as, last summer, his government proposed changes to the country’s media laws that would boost state influence over the STA and reduce the funding of RTV Slovenija.
“State funding of the news agency was also temporarily halted late last year, sparking fears about its future,” it adds.
Politico spoke with over a dozen journalists, including senior staff at Slovenia’s public media outlets. Many of them accuse Janša of whipping up hatred against public media reporters and editors, resulting in threatening phone calls, letters, e-mails and messages on social media.
“Journalists say the pressure has led to self-censorship and that some editors have resorted to calling police over threats.”
According to Politico, many journalists covering Janša’s government say political pressure is strongly felt in their daily work, affecting reporting on issues such as Hungarian investments in Slovenia, the role of far-right movements in the country and even Janša’s Trump-boosting on Twitter.
“Janša’s moves directly contradict the EU’s standards on media freedom,” it says, noting that Commission Vice President Vera Jourova declared last year that “journalists should be able to report without fear or favour.”
Politico notes that the pressure comes at a time when concerns are growing about media freedom and plurality across much of Central and Eastern Europe – in particular in Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria.
The portal notes that Janša has dismissed journalists’ concerns, and that he told Politico that it is he and his party who face threats – pointing to anti-government protesters who have adopted the phrase “death to Janšism” – a play on a Yugoslav partisan slogan.
Foreign Minister Anže Logar also spoke with Politico, saying that unprofessional journalists were the problem and that political activism should be distinguished from journalism. “There is a complete freedom of press in Slovenia,” he added.
The Slovenian government rejects the notion that some journalists are self-censoring. “Since the media is predominately connected to the left centres of capital and political power, it goes without saying that there is absolutely no form of self-censorship,” the Government Communication Office (UKOM) told Politico.
The UKOM has been critical of what it sees as Politico having failed to summarise all its answers regarding the media situation in Slovenia, and has thus published them in their entirety at the government’s website.