Report on the Situation in the Media Field in Slovenia in 2014 natisni

Report of the Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) on the Situation in the Media Field in Slovenia in 2014

 

Situation in the field of media did not change significantly in 2014 as compared to the previous year. There has been somewhat less political pressure on the media since the formation of the new Government under Miro Cerar in the second half of 2014, at least on the outside. However, there has been more criminal prosecution of journalists by the State's Prosecutor's Office.

Under the Government of Alenka Bratušek in 2013 and in the first half of 2014, the majority of daily information media was subjected to enhanced political pressure. In 2013, Prime Minister Alenka Bratušek launched criminal prosecution against the photojournalist Jani Božič for taking photos of the SMS on her mobile phone at the time when she was appointed Prime Minister in the Parliament (she was congratulated by a renowned economist). Prosecution in the first instance ended in February 2015, with Božič being sentenced to five months of probation.

During the reign of Bratušek in the first half of 2014, different political pressure was exerted both on journalists as well as on media houses. In March 2014, the third largest television station in the country, Planet TV, cancelled its documentary show “Maske demokracije” (The Masks of Democracy), which was to be about failed democratization in Slovenia, at the last minute. This happened after the representative of the majority owner of this media house, Greek corporation Antenna Group, met with Prime Minister Bratušek. Subsequently, we can legitimately stipulate that airing of this show was cancelled due to pressure exerted by the Slovenian Government.

 

Criminal prosecution of journalists by the Police and State Prosecutor's Office

A special feature of the legal regulation in Slovenia is that the State Prosecutor's Office can prosecute journalists who publish secret data of state bodies, even though such publication is in the public interest. In January 2014, the criminologists searched the house of Dejan Kaloh, who is the associate of the online medium Politikus.si. They wanted to know where he got the information that the Supreme State Prosecutor's Office launched – in an extremely unusual manner – an extensive financial investigation against the opposition leader Janez Janša.

To continue, the State Prosecutor's Office has also been prosecuting Mitja Lomovšek for allegedly obtaining a document from the State Prosecutor Dragica Kotnik on one of the biggest affairs in Slovenia, when dogs mauled to death a renowned doctor who had been allegedly sexually abusing them. As a result of the publication of the data obtained from the State Prosecutor's Office, Lomovšek is now reproached with instigating a criminal act.

Moreover, the State Prosecutor's Office has also been prosecuting the journalist of Delo, Anuška Delić, for publishing some secret information of the Slovenian Intelligence and Security Agency (SOVA). The State Prosecutor's Office criminally prosecutes also two journalists of Dnevnik, namely only because they were criticising the work of the Slovenian Competition Protection Agency and its Director Andrej Krašek. The State Prosecutor's Office initiated prosecution upon a proposal made by Krašek and the Agency, which is a special kind of an anomaly in the Slovenian legal system. This anomaly allows the State Prosecutor's Office to prosecute journalists on behalf of any state body or official at the expense of the taxpayers. For this reason, ZNP has already submitted several proposals for amendment of the criminal legislation.

 

Use of public authorities for settling accounts with the journalists

ZNP notes that the state authorities are quite frequently used for settling accounts with the journalists. Thus in 2014, a decision took effect, through which the Information Commissioner of the Republic of Slovenia imposed an astronomical fine (for the Slovenian situation) of EUR 11,600 on the opposition weekly Demokracija for publishing electronic communication between the judge Franc Dobrovnik and the journalist of the pro-government weekly Mladina, Igor Mekina. In addition, the Information Commissioner imposed a fine of EUR 1,600 on the Editor-in-Chief of Demokracija and the journalist writing the relevant article. Here, we must again stress that the fine is unusually high considering similar cases in the past. As Demokracija in the past criticised the Information Commissioner Nataša Pirc Musar, such a high fine can be seen only as revenge for critical writing.

Another example of peculiar pressure exerted by notable politicians on the media is also the action filed by the City Municipality of Ljubljana against Demokracija, because the weekly wrote critically about Mayor Zoran Janković and Vice-Mayor Janez Koželj. ZNP believes this was purely an attempt to silence and financially exhaust the relevant newspaper, which is not very keen on the Mayor, under cover and at the expense of the Municipality, for the action has been brought against the weekly by the Municipality on behalf of the Mayor and Vice-Mayor.

 

Private criminal prosecutions of journalists and commentators

In 2014, we often witnessed cases, where politicians in senior positions and economists or other notable personae criminally prosecuted journalists merely because they wrote critically about their work. Thus in 2014, the court sentenced the commentator Boštjan M. Turk to probation because of his writing in the opposition weekly Report about how a notable historian Jože Pirjevec had been signing himself using an Italian form of his name and surname despite so often presenting himself to the Slovenian public as a Slovenian patriot.

Former chiefs of the State Security Service during the former communist regime, Janez Zemljarič and Silvo Gorenc, have been criminally prosecuting the journalist and the photographer of the Reporter magazine, Igor Kršinar and Primož Lavret, because the magazine wrote about the murders of emigrants carried out by the State Security Service. They have been prosecuted despite the fact that the magazine prepared the article based on the documents obtained from the Archives of the Republic of Slovenia and based on the documents presented by the archives researcher Roman Leljak at the Journalists' Conference.

In January 2014, Zemljarič physically attacked a team of journalists from POP TV, who wanted to ask him about the murders by the State Secret Service and his involvement in them.

However, the State Prosecutor's Office refused to criminally prosecute Katarina Kresal, the former Minister of the Interior, who brought an action against the columnist of Reporter Maja Sunčič for writing critically of Kresal in one of her columns.

 

The employment situation of journalists is still very poor

In 2014, the social and employment situation of journalists only deteriorated. We first witnessed practice from previous years, when media refused to employ journalists, forcing them to become self-employed as Sole Traders. As Sole Traders, journalists then still do the same job as before, only that their pay remains always the same or gets raised only by the amount enabling them to be able to pay their taxes and minimum social security contributions. By doing so, the media have transferred the employment-related burdens to the journalists. Another very common practice is that the medium refuses to employ a journalist even though the journalist has been working for this medium for several years which means that the laws oblige it to do so, as such work meets all of the requirements relating to regular employment.

The situation has deteriorated even more for those journalists doing their work on the basis of a copyright contract. Namely in January 2014, the Government enormously raised the taxes on royalties, and the media houses simply passed these onto the journalists, who consequently now receive even lower fees.

 

Non-plurality of the Slovenian media space remains an issue

One of the biggest issues of the Slovenian media space is still its non-plurality. The prevailing media are still those with a leftist view of the world, which is especially problematic in Slovenia, where leftist governments are usually the one leading the country, being currently without any appropriate media control. We witnessed even worse extremes. For example, in the beginning of March 2015, a protest was organised in front of the National Assembly building against giving same-sex couples the right to adopt. Back then, the fourth largest television channel (Kanal A) reported on this event in a very "North Korean manner", saying that the protest was attended only by 100 people, even though according to the Police, there were actually around 3,000 people. The channel never apologised to its viewers for this lie.

All serious printed media providing general information to the public on a daily basis are also pro-government, which applies also the majority of general information media portals, as well as radio and television stations. However, the situation is improving in the field of television stations and web portals, for the increasing commercialisation has caused the media to focus more on the marketing logic than their ideology.

For all these years, we have been noticing a severe lack of research on the balance in the main Slovenian media and the Slovenian media space. The Faculty of Social Sciences, which offers a study programme Journalism, does not conduct such surveys, even though as an institution which produces the majority of journalists, should be the first to carry out such activities. Perhaps the current situation suits it better, for research would probably show that a significant share of the main media are unbalanced, which is probably also a result of poor performance of the mentioned Faculty.

 

Management Board of ZNP, 27 March 2015