What Mladina & Demokracija Are Saying This Week: Hungary, the National Interest & Media Freedom

By , 20 Apr 2019, 13:00 PM Politics
"Old and new horrors" / "Difference is beautiful in Europe - this is already enough difference" "Old and new horrors" / "Difference is beautiful in Europe - this is already enough difference" The weeklies' Facebook pages

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Mladina: Government failing to protect national interest from Hungary

STA, 19 April 2019 – The left-leaning Mladina is critical of Slovenia's reluctance to protect its national interests in a commentary accompanying revelations about connections between the European Commission, the Hungarian government and a bank vying to take over Abanka. The weekly underlines that strong financial institutions are the backbone of a sovereign country.

Editor-in-chief Grega Repovž says that a journalist of Mladina found new connections between the Hungarian government and a Hungarian official at the European Commission who insisted that Slovenia privatise its banks.

The situation is becoming increasingly problematic because the revelations trigger doubts about the actions of those involved in Slovenia, as well as the expertise of the European Commission.

Mladina shows connection between the Hungarian government led by Viktor Orban and István P. Székely, who works for the commission, also highlighting the efforts of Hungarian OTP bank to take over Abanka, which is being privatised.

It wonders why the Hungarian Imre Balogh, who also has links to the Orban government, was appointed the CEO of Slovenian bad bank in 2015 and why Laszlo Urban, a member of Orban's party Fidesz, was appointed a member of the NLB supervisory board in 2016.

"What sort of network has the Hungarian government already woven in Slovenia, apart from the obvious links to the Democrats (SDS) and the media it bought from it?" the weekly wonders, adding that Ambassador Edit Szilágyiné Bátorfi had met privately with Slovenia's central bank governor Boštjan Vasle.

The world is changing and countries are pursuing increasingly selfish interests. "Small countries, above all, need to think very carefully about future relations and how to position themselves today to be safe from turbulence in the future."

But Slovenia does not have many experts capable of thinking so far in advance, Mladina says under the headline Time for the Wise.

Strong banks and financial institutions are the backbone of a country but the incumbent government does not seem to be aware of this.

It has not stopped the privatisation of Abanka although countries are fighting for "the last segment of Slovenia's financial backbone" in plain sight.

Demokracija: Politicians should not speak of media freedom

STA, 18 April 2019 – The right-leaning Demokracija says in its latest commentary that the concern for freedom of the press expressed by ruling politicians in the wake of the alleged pressures on the private broadcaster POP TV should be taken with a grain of salt, adding that journalists should actually be worried about politicians who are doing that.

The ruling politicians were quick to swear on democracy and presented themselves as defenders of media independence from politics and capital, but this care of politicians for freedom of the press should raise concern among journalists.

Friday's editorial headlined Riders of Freedom notes that, for instance, MEP Tanja Fajon of the coalition Social Democrats (SD) said on Twitter that "if there is no democracy, there could be no media freedom".

Fajon's idea that democracy ensures freedom of the press is wrong. It is the opposite: freedom of the press, individuals, expression and economy can ensure democracy, which manifests itself in various forms, the editor-in-chief of the right-leaning weekly, Jože Biščak, argues.

Slovenia has around 20,000 laws and by-laws and also has media legislation. "What is regulated by law cannot be free. The media are therefore not free, they are regulated. And the government will make media legislation only stricter."

Some have gone as far as proposing licences for journalists, which would be a very totalitarian thing, as an "expert committee" appointed by politicians would determine who is journalist and who is not.

They say this is a method to fight bad journalism, protect the public from fake media and fake journalists, and improve media professionalism. But this has no basis in reality, as despite the increasing regulation, there are a lot more media outlets today, and they are much more accessible to an average citizen.

"It is not up to the state or politicians to recognise the legitimacy of the media, it is up to every individual to choose freely what sources and media they will believe. This is how it goes in free societies."

Biščak concludes by saying that those who think that the majority of Slovenian citizens are not capable of differentiating between disinformation and information and that politics could "help" them in that, are inclined to dictatorship.

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