STA, 12 May 2020 - Prime Minister Janez Janša makes the case for confrontation with the media in an essay entitled War with the Media, in which he argues that keeping silent while media wage war is not an option and has damaging effects on society.
Janša starts out by saying he used to subscribe to the notion that you cannot win the war with the media, until seven years ago, when he had a conversation with an old friend of Helmut Kohl, the former German chancellor.
The man told him that in Ancient Rome fear of the Roman legions had been a stronger weapon than the legionnaires' spears and swords.
In the ensuing debate by intellectuals from several countries three main conclusions were drawn.
VOJNA Z MEDIJI— Janez Janša (@JJansaSDS) May 11, 2020
Basen o nas žabah, skuhanih v mlačni vodi ter grožnjah s smrtjo
»Vojna posameznika z mediji ne obstaja, kot ne obstaja vojna posameznika z vojsko neke države.« pic.twitter.com/LmUHPuaGNR
Firstly, a media outlet deserving of its name will never declare criticism against it as an attack on freedom of the press or even a war on media.
Secondly, those denigrated by the media have lost if they consent to the notion that there is no point in arguing with the media.
And thirdly, the media declare criticism of their fake or manipulative reports as war, and then they accuse the targets of media hit jobs of waging war against them.
"And the lukewarm portion of 'public' opinion boiled in lukewarm water widely nods, acknowledging that 'war with the media cannot be won'," Janša says.
"The professional group in western civilisation that first declared itself the seventh power, then the fourth (unelected) branch of power and finally the moral judge of political correctness, is increasingly difficult to recognise today as a force for good, for they are neither."
This is becoming increasingly clear with better education and internet access, which "drastically shatter the emerging idolators of Orwellian society and raise the hope that western civilisation will not suffer the fate of the (W) Roman Empire," according to Janša.
The prime minister goes on to make the case for media plurality, noting that individuals cannot wage war with the media, but media themselves can and should be engaged in a "media war" in the sense of presenting competing views.
"In a democratic society different values must have opportunities for expression and advocacy of their ideas that are as equal as possible."
"Media competition is more important than any other [competition], indeed, it is the precondition for a democratic social system and a free society in general," Janša says.
Turning specifically to Slovenian media, Janša singles out RTV Slovenija as he takes issue with the public broadcaster's statement that a public radio and television service is a bedrock of a free society and attacks on it are attacks on democracy.
He then flips the situation by wondering how the broadcaster would react if the government made the same declaration in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic.
"Can you imagine the reaction by the 'public radio and TV'? If yes, it is perfectly clear where we are and just how profound the depravity is of those who declare themselves a 'bedrock of a free society' without an election or constitutional procedure or any kind of shame."
Janša goes on to say that both largest TV stations have many capable, professional and ethical journalists but these cannot make their mark because of "incendiary editorial policy and management".
"The atmosphere of intolerance and hatred is created by a narrow circle of [female] editors with familial and capital ties to the pillars of the deep state and a handful of average and below-average journalists on demand who would not even make it as reporters from the produce market in a normal media outlet."
For Janša, these are signs of totalitarianism. "Totalitarians typically disarmed their opponents before they shot them. First in the media and then physically. First discrediting, then liquidating. Physically if necessary."
The prime minister argues that "well-meaning and god-fearing individuals" are making this possible.
"Perhaps in the lukewarm water you did not even notice that death threats and appeal to murder at leftist rallies are treated by RTV Slovenija, POP TV and other 'media' from the same flock as something 'normal', self-evident even."
"In fact they are boiling you, not the government," he says in reference to the slow boiling of a live frog.
Noting the difficult situation Slovenia is facing as it battles the coronavirus epidemic and the coming economic crisis, Janša says that the destructive consequences can only be overcome if the nation stands together, whereby irresponsible conduct by a few can put everyone else at risk.
"Slovenia can do it, but it cannot do it divided. This requires active effort for the common good and a strong voice, a voice without fake 'political correctness', the voice of each individual against incitement, the creation of additional emergencies and irresponsible actions."
The essay, which was released on the government website on Monday evening, has been criticised by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) and Left.
The SD's MEP Tanja Fajon labelled it inadmissible, low-minded and shameful, and an abuse of the institution of prime minister against freedom of the press by means of a rhetoric used by US President Donald Trump.
Fajon added that her colleagues in Brussels were frequently asking her about what was going on in Slovenia and followed the developments with concern.
The Left's leader Luka Mesec told the press that Janša had used a populist rhetoric of undermining the media and other authorities in society, but by doing so, he was only expressing his "authoritarian tendencies".
The coalition partners of Janša's Democrats (SDS) in the government are also reserved about the prime minister's views, with the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) announcing it could reconsider its further cooperation if ideological topics should prevail over projects the party had committed to in the coalition agreement.
Although she has not yet read Janša's piece, DeSUS leader Aleksandra Pivec said it was extremely disturbing that one's personal ideological views interfered with real work.
"We're interested in implementing the projects to which we have committed within the coalition. We would like to distance ourselves from various personal views and writings ...," she told the press.
Unhappy with Janša's way of communication, the Modern Centre Party (SMC) said it believes in the professionalism and independence of the media. "This manner of communication between politics and the media certainly does not enhance the credibility of either side, the media and politicians," said deputy group leader Janja Sluga.
New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin took to Twitter saying that both the media and politicians carry a lot of responsibility and that truth is the value that every politician and every media outlet must pursue. "Objective reporting is what builds democracy, bias disables it," he tweeted.