STA, 31 March 2021 - The US Department of State has released the 2020 Human Rights international report in which it also analyses the situation in Slovenia. Attacks on media and harassment of journalists in the country feature more prominently than ever, the latter being described as one of the key human rights issues in Slovenia.
Apart from threats of violence against journalists by nongovernment actors, the other significant issue is criminalisation of libel and slander.
The report, released on Tuesday, points to statements by journalist associations which report about growing hateful rhetoric and threats against reporters online that, according to them, have been spurred by state officials' animosity.
The report notes that Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša has condemned physical assaults against journalists and any actions inciting such offences. It also says that the International Press Institute (IPI) has highlighted that online harassment of journalists has also contributed "to an increasingly hostile climate for watchdog journalism."
Going into more detail, the report mentions that at the start of the epidemic, the government's Covid-19 Crisis Headquarters "retweeted an insulting claim about investigative journalist Blaž Zgaga", which then triggered online harassment against him by pro-government media outlets.
It also mentions criticism by government officials targeting public broadcaster RTV Slovenija's reporting that was unfavourable to the government. Moreover, it highlights complaints by RTV Slovenija about "a growing number of insulting tweets and verbal attacks against the institution and its journalists by politicians". "Following these verbal attacks, RTV journalists experienced several physical attacks by nongovernment actor."
"The European Commission reported in its September rule of law report for the country that concerns have been raised by stakeholders about possible politically motivated changes to the funding of the national public broadcaster and the governance of the national press agency."
The Department of State also reports about assaults on reporters during protests, including an incident involving rapper Zlatko and pro-government media Nova24.
The report also quotes the IPI, saying "few countries in Europe have experienced such a swift downturn in press and media freedom after a new government came to power". The IPI also said that this led to "a worrying decline in press freedom in a very short space of time in a country previously considered a relative safe haven for independent journalism, sending up further warning signs about deteriorating media freedom in Central Europe".
The US authority also says that the Slovenian government attempted to justify its criticism of the media in a letter to the Council of Europe in which it wrote that the situation was a result of the media having "their origin in the former communist regime" and the consolidation of media ownership in the hands of circles close to the left. At the same time, the Department of State also mentions concerns expressed by watchdog groups over alleged financing of certain media by "sources tied to Hungary's ruling Fidesz party".
The report touches on complaints about police violence against protesters and allegations of government revenge tactics against NGOs and systemic corruption, including in the public PPE procurement.
"The government took steps to investigate, prosecute, and punish officials who committed abuses, whether in the security services or elsewhere in the government, and there were no cases of impunity involving security forces during the year," it reads.
Another issue that features heavily in the report is discrimination against the Roma community. Government measures that aim to tackle the situation are mentioned as well though.
There were no reports of anti-Semitic violence in Slovenia in 2020, however the Department of State lists concerns by the Ljubljana Jewish Cultural Centre over the annulment of the 1946 death sentence for collaborationist general Leon Rupnik.
It also mentions requests by a number of ethnic communities in Slovenia to get minority status, including the German-speaking community. Moreover, reports by NGOs, including Amnesty International, on asylum seekers pushbacks are mentioned.