Združenje novinarjev in publicistov
Statement on the state of the media in Slovenia natisni

Position of the Association of Journalists and Publicists (ZNP) regarding the official government dispatch on the state of affairs in the Slovenian media space and the assessment of the situation of the media in Slovenia

The official government letter of explanation about the state of affairs in the Slovenian media space, published on the Council of Europe's online Platform for Freedom of Expression 1in response to alarming reports of the present government’s pressures on journalists - has provoked a strong backlash from dominant media and some policymakers. However, regardless of the political (in)appropriateness of such an approach of the government, the content of the government’s dispatch is, according to an assessment of ZNP, accurate. It highlights certain key problems of the Slovenian media space to which ZNP has often warned in its reports.

One of the main problems of the Slovenian media space is the lack of pluralism. The media sphere is characterized by strong political unbalance since the majority of the journalists and editors more or less openly favor the political left option.

To understand the present media situation it is necessary to get familiar with the basic historical facts of the recent past which were empirically researched in at least two papers (Study of Media Freedom and Autonomy of the Media Space in the Republic of Slovenia in 2007, Media Freedom in Slovenia 2008).

It is a fact that in Slovenia the political forces which were in decision making positions in the times of Yugoslavia along with their ideological followers, (re)emerged after the Independence war and after the fall of the dictatorship from the previous Communist regime. It is not uncommon that the journalists, who were before 1991 formally in the service of the only authorized party - the Communist Party- during the previous undemocratic regime, became journalists, editors, and executives of many media after 1991. Some of them who took over were even agents of the former Yugoslavian secret police. The story of such a case was run in the Sunday Times in 2012.

Another specific of the Slovenian media space is that the left-wing political forces control most of the country's capital and therefore directly influence media policy, to which the public broadcaster RTV Slovenia is no exception. It has become increasingly evident that the dominant media have been following as closely as possible the political agenda of the left-wing parties and those that were in control in the previous undemocratic system.

There are practical examples of this trend.
One common practice is the orchestrated dominant media launching of so-called "new faces", introduced by the left-wing political parties. Another is the uncritical willingness to support the interests of the left-wing political leaders, which is particularly outstanding in the Electoral confrontations. Topics discussed mostly follow the agenda-setting of the left-wing option. Another anomaly in the Slovene dominant media is the selection of guests on political TV and radio programs. The choice is in the strong disproportion between left and right-wing and independent political orientation of the guests.

It is a rather common practice that the editors from dominant media tend to harass or even dismiss journalists, including members of our association, who act autonomously and professionally. On the other hand, those who are committed to the mainstream agenda are rewarded and gain more influence, despite severe slips and they are often in risky positions prone to corruption. The dominant media, under the control of the political left, have been often (ab)used for battling their opponents using false or fake news, which is very well documented in Jančič’s book.

The profound lack of journalistic impartiality in the dominant media has become even more evident when in difficult times due to the outbreak of the COVID – 19, the government of Mr. Janez Janša took over. Much to our surprise the radical left-wing journalists along with the editors (including some of the most influential editors and journalists of national service RTV Slovenia ) frequently displayed their political views against the present government, mainly on the social networks and openly agitated against the new government. Least to say that such conduct is not very professional since we were in the middle of the government crisis (the previous has suddenly and quite unexpectedly stepped down) and health crisis.

The work of those journalists and editors has not been focused on informing the public and offering impartial information, but they prefer to use spinning and other means, such as amplifying small slips of the government's officials or exaggerating unimportant information. Unfortunately, their media agenda is directed against the government and not so much to disseminate important information in the present situation regarding the health and economic crisis.

The low professionalism of journalists and media producers in the dominant media has been mentioned already. Besides that, they are often highly politicized or even radicalized, many of them act as political activists or /and ideological agitators, promoting a particular ideology or political agenda, usually from the left political spectrum, on the various social media. It is also rather often that so-called dominant media, including public service RTV Slovenia, often respond in an orchestrated manner to events that ally them to left ideology. In that manner , they strongly affect the citizens' perceptions of the political and social situation in Slovenia and their evaluation of the policies, political actors and other stakeholders. The orchestration of dominant media and the lack of media pluralism consequently project a distorted media picture to the broad public. In the mentioned context it is particularly problematic the biased attitude of the public media, RTV Slovenia, the national broadcaster, which activities are funded by all of the taxpayers, regardless of their political or worldview.

At the present moment, the broad public and the experts follow with the great interest strong polemics between the political actors who have been the victims of the dominant media lynch and the media workers that were actively involved. ZNP is not in favor of such polemics but emphasizes that to understand the media situation in Slovenia it is necessary to understand the historical events in Slovenia.

The media ownership, lack of pluralism and low professionalism are not the only causes of the biased media in Slovenia. The anomaly is also in the System. For example, the Ministry of Culture has paid no or scarce attention to supporting independent media or independent journalists. In the previous one-party regime the journalists were classified as political workers and the pluralism was not allowed or it was sanctioned. Therefore there was no independent media.

Still today the independent journalist and publicists are failing to register and obtain the status in the evidence of the Ministry of Culture, despite their politically independent and valuable contributions. On the other hand, the status which supports cultural, arts and creative workers are, for example, granted to cinema operators and puppet designer/technologists, as they are listed in the register among with 61 professions. The present possibility of independent journalists to compete for media grants, unfortunately, does not eliminate the anomaly, but - conversely - reinforce the existing cartel situation.

The anomaly in the Slovene media space is a burning issue and to overcome the present situation several changes have to be introduced, but as expected most of them are not to the dominant media liking.


ZNP, Ljubljana 20 April 2020.

 
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© 2007 Združenje novinarjev in publicistov.
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