14 Apr 2021, 12:08 PM

STA, 13 April 2021 - The Locked Shields 21 cyber defence and strategic decision-making exercise will start on Tuesday [13 April] in 30 countries, including Slovenia for the first time. The largest and most complex international exercise in the field will in Slovenia also include representatives of businesses.

Organised by the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE) annually since 2010, the exercise will see Slovenia participate for the first time as the country became a CCDCOE member last year.

Taking place until Friday, it will feature over 2,000 experts in cyber security, strategic decision-making and strategic communication, Viktor Sterle of the Defence Ministry's IT and communications office announced at a press conference.

Sterle added that it would enable countries to be tested in a realistic and safe environment, and improve their capabilities of defence of national information systems and critical infrastructure against cyber attacks.

The first, technical and competitive part of the exercise will feature red teams from excellence centres acting against blue teams comprising the participating countries.

The latter will play the role of national groups for rapid response to cybersecurity events and help a fictitious country solve complex cybersecurity incidents.

The blue teams will be assessed and classified at the end of the exercise. In addition to the Slovenian, it will feature another 21 blue teams from various countries, with 40 experts in each term on average, Sterle said.

In the second part of the exercise, the process of recognition, coordination and decision-making will be tested in simulated cases of complex cybersecurity incidents in accordance with the relevant national legislation.

According to Sterle, the scenario is based on real cybersecurity events, and the exercise environment will feature around 5,000 virtualised systems that will be exposed to more than 4,000 attacks.

He noted that, as the Covid-19 epidemic had made society even more dependent on ICT and virtual services, effective cooperation between the public and private sector had become a must in creating a safe cyberspace.

The Slovenian blue team will thus feature experts from companies associated in the cybersecurity section of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS), and experts from the state and public administration.

Gregor Spagnolo, the head of the section and leader of the Slovenian team, welcomed the public-private partnership, and noted that this was the first time intensive cooperation in cybersecurity took place at such a high level in Slovenia.

More details here

13 Apr 2021, 14:48 PM

STA, 13 April 2021 - Slovenia's largest two vaccination centres witnessed massive cancellations by those due to get an AstraZeneca jab last week. Half of those invited turned down the jab in Maribor and a third in Ljubljana.

Under the valid national vaccination strategy, AstraZeneca is being currently administered to over 60-year-olds, while the national immunisation advisory body has approved the vaccine for use on everyone over 18.

The Maribor Community Health Centre has been inviting 60-65s to be inoculated with the jab.

However, the centre's director, Jernej Završnik said they had been noticing people having second thoughts. If someone refuses a particular jab, or does not respond to the invitation, "we call the next one on the list".

Half the people invited to get the jab turned it down, while in case of the other two available vaccines about 10% are turned down, Završnik told the STA on Monday.

So far, the Maribor centre vaccinated 10,400 people with the AstraZeneca jab. In all they had inoculated 41,200 with the first dose and 11,230 with both doses. They expect they will have inoculated all over 60s this week.

Meanwhile, the Ljubljana Community Health Centre saw 1,646 of the 5,040 appointed (33%) to get vaccinated with the AstraZeneca jab fail to appear for their appointment last week. Those due to get other vaccines all turned up.

In case of cancellations, the centre has reserve lists of persons in the target group planned for immunisation. "If we are vaccinating over the 60s, over 60s are entered on the reserve list as well," the centre said.

Health Ministry State Secretary Franc Vindišar told reporters on Tuesday that those who turn down a certain vaccine are placed on the bottom of the waiting list, which means their turn will come once there is enough of the desired vaccine available.

"All the vaccines that have been endorsed by the European Medicines Agency are safe and effective," the official underscored.

Last week, the EU medicines regulator said that unusual blood clots should be listed as a very rare side effect of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but also said the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the risks.

Bojana Beović, the head of the national immunisation advisory commission, expressed surprise at the vaccine being turned down by the over 60s, considering the vaccine involves no risk for the age group on principle.

"It's the cohort where the risk of the vaccine is minimal compared with the risk of the disease. In the past week or ten days everyone who died from Covid-19, that is about ten people, were in fact over 60 years of age, except individual exceptions," she said.

She believes GPs should talk to their patients to better explain the risks and benefits involved.

The advisory group's decision that the vaccine can be used for all age groups of adults as approved by the EMA means that those who have received the first dose of the vaccine, that is teachers, will get the same jab again.

Beović said that as far as she knew everyone over 60 who had wished so had been vaccinated, so the vaccination rollout could move down to the next priority tier.

Data from the National Institute of Public Health show 101,027 people have received their first dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine and 218 have received two at the national level. In all, 334,706 have been inoculated with the first dose and 122,185 are fully vaccinated.

13 Apr 2021, 12:09 PM

STA, 12 April 2021 - The Covid-19 vaccination task force at the National Institute of Public Health (NIJZ) has decided the AstraZeneca vaccine will be administered to everyone over 18 years old without any restrictions, a member of the group Alojz Ihan told commercial broadcaster POP TV on Monday. The head of the group, Bojana Beović, confirmed this for the STA.

According to Beović, the AstraZeneca vaccine will be administered to people over 18 years old in line with the priority groups from the vaccination strategy.

"We've decided to vaccinate without age restrictions given that EMA had reviewed documents finding no connection to either age or gender, meaning there is no reason to restrict the vaccination to a certain group of population," Ihan explained.

In line with the vaccination strategy, people over 60 years old remain the priority.

Ihan warned that the virus was spreading in the country, and that the deliberation on the AstraZeneca vaccine had caused delays in the vaccination.

There are currently 16,600 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine at the NIJZ's central warehouse.

"Given that the risk is high for all age groups in the current epidemiological situation, if there will be leftover vaccine, it will have to be offered to those who want to be vaccinated. Thus, younger people too will be able to get vaccinated," said Ihan.

The supply of the vaccine will increase in this and the next quarter, especially Pfizer, the national coordinator for vaccination logistics, Jelko Kacin, told POP TV. The Janssen vaccine is also coming.

"By the end of this quarter we will have 250,000 shots of Janssen, which means 250,000 vaccinated people, while the monthly supply of the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine in this period, early summer, will rise to almost 300,000 shots a month," Kacin told POP TV, adding that everyone who would want to be vaccinated should get the shot by July.

13 Apr 2021, 10:03 AM

STA, 12 April 2021 - The European Parliament's democracy monitoring group has addressed almost fifty written questions to the Slovenian government, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti, as it is trying to fully assess media freedom in Slovenia.

The follow-up questions were sent out on 31 March after the Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group met to discuss the media situation in the country on 26 March.

At the time Janša and Simoniti were expected to present their views virtually, but the group's head Sophie in 't Veld declined to allow Janša to first show a video.

As a result, he declined to take part, accusing the Dutch MEP of censorship, while the group also failed to establish a video link with Simoniti, whose ministry is in charge of media policy.

In 't Veld then announced dialogue would continue, including with the written questionnaire and the group studying the material it had received from Slovenian stakeholders, including Janša's video.

The questions concern a range of topics from media freedom, the judiciary and coronavirus restrictions to NGO funding, and staffing.

The MEPs are particularly interested in the proposed media reform, especially in relation to public outlets RTV Slovenija and STA, and the extent of hate speech.

Some questions concern Janša's attitude towards the media, including his last year's vlog War with the Media and labelling two journalists prostitutes.

The MEPs would also like to know more about Hungarian foundation KESMA's alleged ownership stakes in Janša's SDS party's media outlets, and STA funding suspension.

Some questions are about Slovenia's upcoming EU presidency, with MEPs inquiring how Slovenia would act regarding the "Article 7" procedure against Hungary and Poland.

The questions come from MEPs from the groupings of the S&D, Renew and Greens, while only one questions comes from the EPP, to which Janša's SDS is affiliated.

They are available at https://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/231681/DFRMG 31.03.2021 - Follow-up questions to SL authorities.pdf

The group monitoring the media situation in Slovenia is part of the Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE).

It has so far met twice, on 5 and 26 March, to discuss it with several Slovenian stakeholders, who presented their takes on the situation.

Janša said on Twitter today that the group "has no authority to question anyone". "We attended the debate on the matter voluntarily and we expect censor Sophie in 't Veld to translate to members the video we have sent."

He referred to the video about attacks on media and journalists which he insisted should be screened as part of the debate on 26 March, whereas in 't Veld refused to allow that. She did say, however, the video could be shown at the end of the debate. Janša responded by accusing her of censorship.

The prime minister's office later said that Janša and Simoniti would forward responses to the group's questions after the video was screened at a public session of the Parliament's Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

Other stories on media freedom in Slovenia

13 Apr 2021, 09:50 AM

STA, 12 April 2021 - Ljubljana, 12 April - Slovenian Press Agency (STA) director Bojan Veselinovič has told the government he is granting it access to all books of account and documents, even though the STA has never received a formal request to that effect. He said the government should say, in writing, who will access the documents on its behalf and in what way.

In an open letter sent on Monday, Veselinovič says he is doing that despite the government having never formally transferred its shareholder rights to any government agency or body, which he has said in the past is a prerequisite under Slovenian corporate law to grant access to anyone except the government as such, including the Government Communication Office (UKOM).

Veselinovič acknowledged that the move may be construed as "legally incorrect" but "I have opted for this step having struggled between consistent respect for a clearly defined legal framework which governs the information rights of shareholders, and a repeal of the vapid excuse by the government side which leads to the financial starvation of the STA and jeopardises the social security of the employees."

He also reiterated that the STA has not received the public service fee for this year, even though that obligation is set down in the seventh anti-corona law, which stipulates that it is entitled to the payment regardless of whether a public service agreement with the government has been concluded or not.

Moreover, he said the government has refused to sign a public service agreement even though it had been urged to do so, and he rejected the recent claim by the prime minister's chief-of-staff, Peter Šuhel, that he had been invited twice to sign a public service agreement but refused to.

Noting that the independent auditor has highlighted risks to liquidity in its report on the STA's financial operations, Veselinovič said that "it is the duty of the government as the representative of the founder to honour its legal obligations and prevent the collapse of the STA."

The government said in a tweet that UKOM had called on Veselinovič to sing a new contract on 24 February and 29 March. It also published the two letters, which call on Veselinovič to "clearly say whether he acknowledges UKOM as a representative of the founder so that we can prepare a new contract and also forward all the documents that had been demanded".

The question whether the government would respond to Veselinovič's latest call was left unanswered. UKOM merely said that Veselinovič had not forwarded the requested documents until today.

The STA's supervisory board called on the government at the end of March to meet its legal obligations to the agency, which had been performing the public service of informing the public under the STA act and had been recording very good business results so far.

The board also said that all documents and data were always available to the government as the only STA shareholder.

The head of the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) and deputy prime minister, Zdravko Počivalšek, said on Twitter Veselinovič had made the right move today "albeit a bit late". "The STA is an important state institution, so it is essential that this dispute be solved as soon as possible," he said.

The coalition New Slovenia (NSi) did not respond to Veselinovič's call but pointed to a recent letter by the NSi head and deputy prime minister, Matej Tonin, urging Veselinovič to immediately forward the requested documents to UKOM. Tonin also assessed at the time that the relationship between Veselinovič, the government and UKOM had deteriorated so much in the last months that the STA director should offer his resignation for the benefit of the agency.

12 Apr 2021, 19:28 PM

STA, 12 April 2021 - The journalists of the newspaper Delo, as well as the paper's editorial board and the Journalists' Association, have condemned threats levelled against Delo's Brussels correspondent Peter Žerjavič by Žan Mahnič, the state secretary for national security.

The journalists believe that the threat tweeted by Mahnič is yet another attempt to put pressure on the newspaper and individual journalists who are doing their job professionally and in line with the highest standards, also enjoying the support of the publisher leadership and editorial board.

Last week, Žerjavič tweeted a link to an article about Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša's criticism of the German public broadcaster ARD following a report by the broadcaster about pressure on the media in Slovenia.

"Comparing the main German public TV broadcaster with Stürmer or Pravda is hypocrisy never before seen at this level," Žerjavič added in reference to the Nazi and Communist propaganda papers to which Janša likened the ARD and which is also discussed in the article posted on the website of the ARD news show Tagesschau.

In response, Mahnič tweeted "who in the EU cares what some irrelevant ARD thinks. You should be worried how many more Thursday afternoons you will be having fun at Place du Luxembourg if Petrič fails to get annexes for the second rail track."

Mahnič was referring to Stojan Petrič, a co-owner and the director of the publisher Delo, who remains a prominent figure in the industrial conglomerate Kolektor, the company that recently signed key contracts with the government to build a new railway to the port of Koper.

Apart from current journalists working at Delo, an open letter was also issued by former journalists of the paper, saying Mahnič's tweet was not only a threat but also an attempt at blackmailing Delo.

"He has made these threats openly and without reservations, even though this is criminal blackmail, a brutal attack on the paper's autonomous editorial policy and media freedom in general. A new violent attempt at political subjugation of Delo is taking place via blackmail of the owner."

The letter also mentions alleged withdrawal of a commentary by Janez Markeš critical of the government from a Saturday edition after a part of the copy had already been printed.

"Was the editor under pressure from outside or under political pressure to do this? In any case, the paper has witnessed brutal (self)censorship, inconceivable in autonomous and credible journalism," former Delo journalists said.

They also noted that the pressure Delo had found itself under is not unlike the pressure to which public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and the press agency STA were being subjected.

12 Apr 2021, 15:56 PM

STA, 12 April 2021 - National vaccination coordinator Jelko Kacin pointed the finger at Information Commissioner Mojca Prelesnik last night when asked about problems in vaccination organisation on a current affairs show broadcast by RTV Slovenija. Prelesnik denied the accusation, saying the responsibility for delays lay solely with the government.

Kacin was asked on air Sunday night why Slovenia had not set up an effective nation-wide IT system allowing those who want to get vaccinated to register for a jab. The moderator also noted that some had gotten vaccinated simply by turning up at a vaccination site, while others could not get vaccinated despite having applied.

How to get a covid test in Slovenia

FInd out where you can get a covid test in Slovenia here

Kacin noted people started registering at the country's one-stop-shop online portal eUprava in December after being called to do so by the government.

However, the Information Commissioner's Office had issued a temporary injunction preventing this data to be sent to local health care providers, said Kacin. "This is an unreasonable decision, and it is impossible to work miracles until it remains so."

Prelesnik said today that not her office but those in charge bore the full responsibility for the delays, having failed to plan an effective process of registration and implementation of the vaccination drive.

Prelesnik said Kacin was either "pretending ignorance or is actually ignorant of the problem, which are both rather concerning". Delays in the vaccination drive are caused by inadequate quantities of vaccines, which has nothing to do with the injunction, Prelesnik said.

Her office found that the eUprava registration process misled citizens because it remains impossible to determine what users had achieved by registering - whether they only demonstrated interest in getting vaccinated or had actually been placed on a waiting list.

The office imposed the injunction, instructing the Health Ministry, the National Institute for Public Health (NIJZ) and the Public Administration Ministry to inform individuals about the use of their personal data in mid-March.

They have not done this until this day and those who registered can in no way rely on their registration, which Prelesnik believes is unacceptable.

She said that those in charge had failed to show respect for basic human rights, such as the right to fair and transparent processing of personal data, when designing the process.

The Information Commissioner's Office found that public servants in charge of personal data protection within government bodies had raised issues but had been ignored by decision-makers.

Citizens have the right to know and the state must show them minimal respect by informing them how and where they can register to get vaccinated, said Prelesnik.

"Such important information should have been communicated by government representatives in a comprehensive and uniform manner. Instead we face new, contradicting and unclear statements by representatives of different bodies every day."

Prelesnik also called into question the purpose of the eUprava vaccination registration as such, saying nobody had accessed the data by the time the injunction was issued, while relevant bodies continue to instruct people to register only with their GP.

Interior Minister Aleš Hojs responded to Kacin's statement on Twitter last night, accusing Prelesnik of "unbelievable usurpation of authority".

Data on covid vaccination in Slovenia can be found here (in Slovenian only)

11 Apr 2021, 13:06 PM

STA, 10 April 2021 - Voters in Slovenia are apparently not tired of new faces and parties as more than 64% of the respondents in a public opinion poll conducted by Mediana for the newspaper Delo said the Slovenian political arena needs a new party that would fill the content gap.

Region-wise, the largest share of respondents who are inclined to a new face come from central Slovenia, shows the survey conducted between 6 and 8 April on a sample of 705 adults.

As many as 79% of the respondents from the voter base of the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) would like to see a new face come, which confirms that the party of the former prime minister does not have a solid base, Delo said on Saturday.

On the other hand, as many as 56% supporters of the ruling Democrats (SDS) think that new faces and parties are not needed in Slovenia.

Around 23% of the respondents would certainly or probably vote for Aleksandra Pivec, the former president of the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) who has established a new party called Our Land.

The same share of support goes for MPs Igor Zorčič and Janja Sluga, who recently left the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC).

According to the poll, the most recognisable face and having the most chance of being voted for is MEP Ljudmila Novak, the former president of the coalition New Slovenia (NSi).

Court of Audit president Tomaž Vesel and former Environment Minister Jure Leben, who is establishing a new party with a green note, are supported by 15% and 16% of the respondents, respectively.

Delo notes that these shares are not directly translatable to actual election results, as the respondent were limited only to a theoretical environment of new parties alone that are not facing a "real" competition.

11 Apr 2021, 10:40 AM

STA, 11 April 2021 - A fire broke out Friday evening in the house of a local councillor for the Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ) in Črnomelj, Vesna Fabjan, after an unknown perpetrator threw a petrol bomb though the window.

Fabjan told news portal 24ur that a petrol bomb had come flying through the window, causing a small fire. The family were able to put it out quickly.

Novo Mesto police said an investigation was under way. The damage is estimated at EUR 2,000.

LMŠ said no political or other activity warranted such a cowardly and brutal attack on anyone, adding that police should find the perpetrators as soon as possible.

The party's leader, Marjan Šarec, wrote on Twitter there was increasing intolerance in society, which sooner or later translates into actions. "There is no justification for this cowardly act."

10 Apr 2021, 12:50 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 9 April 2021. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Mantra about society being polarised is plain lie

STA, 9 April 2021 - Mladina says in its latest editorial that leading politicians talking about the nation being divided and society being polarised is a "plain lie" and that its purpose is to create a false narrative about the support for the current government coalition.

The left-leaning weekly adds that this is confirmed neither by election results nor public opinion polls conducted since 2008, saying that "Slovenia is not politically divided into two equal parts" as this is a "plain populist lie."

Appearances and statements by governing politicians clearly show how important it is for them to repeat the theory that society is divided and polarised - this way they show that the public support they receive themselves is much higher than the actual support for their parties and policies.

"In all elections since 2004 ... a majority has been won by parties that declared themselves as clear opponents of the Democrats (SDS)," Mladina adds under the headline A Simple, but Big Lie.

The same is being confirmed by public opinion polls: the SDS and its satellites never get more than a third of overall support, and parties that break their promise of not cooperating with the SDS practically always lose public support immediately.

As for government support, the situation is similar - at this point Slovenia is not polarised, but it could be said that it is almost united: a vast majority is against the government led by Janez Janša and his SDS party.

"What polarisation is President Borut Pahor, an open supporter of the SDS, talking about then when he says that society is divided and polarised?" Mladina wonders, adding that by doing that, Pahor is fictitiously inflating public support for Janša and his government.

Of course, Janša is the one who talks the most about society being divided and polarised, but this theory is also repeated by all members of the government and Janša's satellites, as well as analysts who make public appearances as allegedly unbiased observers.

This is simply a lie as the "public has not been as politically unified as today for quite a while - since 2014. It is united in the conviction that it does not support these arrogant and autocratic authorities or government."

Demokracija: Fact checking to defeat media lies

STA, 8 April 2021 - Demokracija says in its latest commentary that opinions about the state of freedom of the press in Slovenia should be based on checkable facts and adds that people are getting aware that what they used to consider as mainstream, credible and influential media are not that anymore.

The right-wing weekly notes that in the State Department report about the media in Slovenia, the "only opinion by the Americans of their own is that the [Janez] Janša government respects media freedom and that there are no political pressures."

It adds that truth is a very practical challenge: it is based on checkable facts, and facts are undoubtedly on the side of the government, with two things being encouraging.

The first is that the government does not want to be likeable to the mainstream media and be apologetic when it is criticised or accused of something. "Naive people who would let the media guide them like controlled idiots no longer sit in the government palace."

Demokracija adds that the illusion that the established (progressive) media have influence on political decision has been lost with the third government of Janez Janša, which is a huge blow for their egos, as they imagined that they would be running the country regardless of who is in power.

"The second thing that is encouraging is that people are getting gradually aware that those what they used to consider as 'mainstream', 'credible' and 'influential' media are not any of that anymore."

They used to power the "motor of the Slovenian version of the lying cultural Marxism" with hatred towards Janša, the weekly says, expressing the hope that such media subversion is ending.

"Facts can now be checked on the internet, and fact-checking is the best way for truth to defeat lies," concludes the commentary headlined What Gender the Martians Are?

All our posts in this series are here

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