STA, 2 September 2020 - The International Press Institute (IPI) has analysed the state of mass media in Slovenia since the new, Janez Janša government took over in mid-March, saying that "few countries in Europe have experienced such a swift downturn in press and media freedom after a new government came to power".
Headlined New Administration, Old Agenda: Press Freedom Strained Again in Slovenia under Veteran PM Janša, the report, posted on IPI's website on 1 September, says that in the last six months, Janša "has immediately renewed long-standing grievances with the press and denigrated critical media outlets".
It adds that experts say he has launched a series of attacks on reporters on Twitter, enabling a wider increase in digital harassment from online trolls and contributing to an increasingly hostile climate for watchdog journalism.
Janša's attacks and willingness to denounce critical reporting as fake news have also drawn parallels with other leaders and brought Slovenia to the attention of press freedom groups, the OSCE and top EU bodies, IPI, headquartered in Austria's Vienna, says in its introduction to the report.
It points out that the ruling right-wing Democratic Party (SDS) is trying to exert greater influence over the country's small media market as part of what it claims is an effort to promote greater media pluralism.
It notes the government plan to introduce legislation to de-fund public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and Janša's attempt to expand his party's pro-government media system, chiefly NovaTV24.si, much of which are funded by Hungarian media linked to Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
The report says these developments raise concerns the Orban system of media control could be exported to Slovenia, although it believes it is premature to believe that Slovenia will become another illiberal democracy similar to Hungary.
Nevertheless, the export of Hungarian methods to Slovenia and other Central and SE European countries should worry EU leaders, so the report says the OSCE, the EU and the Council of Europe should carefully follow the developments in Slovenia and react to possible new violations of media freedom.
The media organisation says that while Slovenia was previously considered a relative safe haven for independent journalism, it is now witnessing "a worrying decline in press freedom" in a rather short period of time.
IPI says that journalists are now working in a far more antagonistic climate, one in which staunch criticism of the prime minister risks immediate rebuke, while Janša's attacks on journalists and media outlets are according to observers corroding public discourse and worsening polarisation.
Should only few changes be made to the draft amendments to the RTV Slovenija act and to Slovenian Press Agency act after the public consultation period for them expires on Friday, "the overhaul of the country's media space will have gained considerable momentum" in the coming weeks, says IPI.
Its report in English is available at https://ipi.media/new-administration-old-agenda-press-freedom-strained-again-in-slovenia-under-veteran-pm-jansa/