By: Nick Mosher
On March 5, the European Parliament convened to address the Slovenian government’s recent attacks on its own media. Journalists have suffered an onslaught of threats and online harassment by government officials and private citizens inspired by the rhetoric of Prime Minister Janez Janša, who has continuously criticized journalists and accused them of producing fake news.
The Slovenian government’s intrusion into free press in the country has not stopped at name-calling. Investigative journalist Lenar Kučić has reported that many media outlets in Slovenia are controlled either directly or indirectly by politicians, especially at the local level. Kučić claims that these politicians are using media outlets to promote their own public image and discredit journalist who speak out against them.
Prime Minister Janša’s most recent attack was a refusal to renew funding for the Slovenian Press Agency (SPA), one of the major media outlets in the country. While the government claims that this pulling of funds was simply because a new contract for 2021 had not been signed, many believe this is an attempt to bring down the agency. Some working for SPA believe funding will go instead to a new media outlet, the National Press Agency, which appears to have close ties to Janša’s party. Janša has also called for the resignation of SPA’s director, Bojan Veselinovic, for “unlawful activity” and accused him of being a “political tool of the extreme left.”
Prime Minister Janša and Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti initially agreed to attend the European Parliament’s hearing and answer questions about what they have claimed to be “absurd” accusations of media suppression. However, the leaders cancelled their visits beforehand with no clear explanation. The surge of media suppression began when Janša took power in March of last year and will likely continue as he hopes to consolidate control of Slovenian media before beginning his tenure this July as the President of the Council of the European Union.