Report on the Freedom of the Press in Slovenia for 2013 natisni

The freedom of the press in Slovenia has been infringed significantly. In 2013, there were several cases showing that the political and economic influence over the media has increased. Despite freedom of expression being protected by the Constitution, self-censorship has become a common occurrence in the Slovenian media.

The political pressure and directing of many journalists in the majority of the daily information media strengthened in 2013. Several tens of journalists were forced to resign, signing only a cooperation agreement with their media, which substantially worsened their financial situation, and more tens of journalists are destined to follow the same path in the coming months. Moreover, many journalists who got their job as freelancers but had actually been doing the work of a full-time employee all this time were laid off. The majority of media houses cut their salaries, which hit the younger journalists brutally hard, whereas the older journalists and editors were not affected as much.

It is alarming that several replacements of editors and reassignments of journalists occurred immediately after the appointment of the new government under Alenka Bratušek. The Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) therefore called on media owners - among others also the State - to allow the Slovenian media space to develop in the direction of wide plurality, for this represents one of the factors guaranteeing a free and democratic society and, nonetheless, also the economic development of the country.

Allow us to give some examples of the violation of media freedom and (in)direct pressure of the politics on the media.

The newspaper company Finance laid off a journalist who most frequently investigated questionable transactions of Zoran Janković, the Mayor of Ljubljana and the frozen president of the political party Pozitivna Slovenija. Because of this journalist's writings, Janković filed a claim against Finance, while some time ago, his son Jure Janković even threatened the journalist with death.

The Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek launched a criminal prosecution against the photojournalist Jani Božič for taking photos with his mobile phone of her being congratulated for the appointment as the Prime Minister (by a renowned economist). According to the government, taking photos in the home of democracy and symbol of freedom is allowed only from a distance, and even this has not been specifically determined. To continue, an indictment has been lodged also against Božič, who was forced to find a job outside Slovenia, in Great Britain, due to intolerable working conditions in the Slovenian media space, with the trial set to begin next month.

Similarly, criminal prosecution was launched also by the Defence Minister Roman Jakič because, upon his election, the Reporter magazine published a message sent to his e-mail by a former colleague from the Zares party in which the latter suggested to Jakič that the Ministry of Defence be purged, enlisting those who should form the new staff. As the author of the photograph is unknown, the Minister filed a proposal for criminal prosecution against an unknown perpetrator and started criminal and damages proceedings against the Reporter magazine. Furthermore, when Jakič himself fell under criminal investigation for misusing his official position, he even had the decency to initiate criminal proceedings against the police source which informed the journalists of the house search, and the police interrogated the journalist Damjana Žišt who was at the site under investigation before them.

The web portal, which is owned by a state company Telekom Slovenije, began publishing a political analysis by a lobbyist, former MP and member of the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (LDS) party, Mile Šetinc, who is, according to some media, also one of the advisers at the election headquarters of the Positive Slovenia (PS) party. When this happened, the editor-in-chief of the portal, Uroš Urbas, wrote an explanation under the column, stating that Šetinc was invited to become one of their visiting writers because the editorial board had been the target of repeated accusations from circles close to the government that they do not understand the endeavours, efforts and achievements of the current government. This shows how the government has been trying to influence the editorial policy of the portal by appointing its own people to make sure that the portal will write in a manner that is to its liking. Immediately after the government was replaced, the editor of the editorial office for domestic political affairs was also removed from office.

The National Radio and Television cancelled the television programme Pogledi Slovenije immediately after it revealed that Bratušek was involved in the sale of Mercator. The programme was replaced by a more modest one called Tarča, which confronts significantly less opposing views. The lack of plurality at the national television has become more and more common, which is why the public radio and television broadcasting service has been losing its credibility, with many debaters boycotting its invitations.

The ZNP also recalls the case of the Demokracija weekly, which is part-owned by the largest opposition party. After this weekly magazine published information about the controversial communication between the court judge and the journalist, including a header indicating only their e-mail addresses, the inspector for personal data protection issues and, following a complaint, the judge fined the issuer of the magazine, the editor-in-chief and the journalist 11,600 Euro. The ZNP draws attention to the fact that such an astronomic fine may seriously jeopardize the existence of this magazine, therefore it understands this decision as an act of revenge against the opposition press and as an attack on the freedom and plurality of the press.

We must also highlight the case of the journalist of Delo, Borut Tavčar, who was fined for criticising Zoran Janković, the Mayor of Ljubljana and former president of the largest government party Pozitivna Slovenija. He was criminally prosecuted for his writings by the State Prosecutor's Office. In the last few months, criminal proceedings were initiated against the owner of the Politikus portal, Dejan Kaloh, and the journalist of Delo, Anuška Delić, allegedly for publishing strictly confidential information in their media. The ZNP believes that these proceedings also represent an attack on the freedom of the press, as the journalist have a constitutional right to let the public about all questionable procedures, even if the relevant information is strictly confidential.

Many members of the ZNP face constant pressure coming not only from the politicians but also from some media. When some years ago, one of the ZNP members received a letter in which he was threatened with death, the police refused to address this matter. In their opinion, this was not a serious threat.

Management Board of ZNP