STA, 4 September 2021 -A group of coronavirus deniers and anti-vaccination protesters stormed the headquarters of the Slovenian public broadcaster last night, managing to get into the newsroom studio before the police intervened.
The incident happened after the group had been protesting against Covid-19 containment measures and vaccination in front of the RTV Slovenija (RTVS) headquarters for four months, harassing staff and demanding air time to be able to present their truth to the public.
"This is an unacceptable attack on the media, journalism and democracy," Manica Janežič Ambrožič, the RTVS news programme editor, said in response to the incident, which happened at around 8:30pm.
"This is a grave attack on our media house and public media outlet, which we condemn in the strongest terms," Andrej Grah Whatmough, RTVS director general, said as he appeared on the late night news show Odmevi.The scene outside the studios
The incident, which ended after the police removed some 20 maskless protesters from the building, has also drawn condemnation from the Slovenian Association of Journalists (DNS) and the Trade Union of Journalists and from Interior Minister Aleš Hojs.
Grah Whatmough said the management had been trying hard for months to have the situation tackled, but the problem was because the area around the RTVS HQ was a public property and the protesters had a permit to assemble there.
He announced security around the building would be beefed up and was hopeful the authorities in charge would take their complaints more seriously after the incident.
Today, the management issued a written statement denouncing what it said was an unprecedented incident, urging the authorities to act, and pledging to use all "security and legal means to prevent a repeat of such an incident".
The scene in the lobby
Tako je bilo včeraj nekaj minut po 21. uri na recepciji TV Slovenija, ko je policija približno 20 proticepilskih protestnikov, ki so vdrli v stavbo, odstranila iz studia informativnega programa. #novikoronavirus #covid19 #cepljenje @rtvslo pic.twitter.com/bPxEodGZ4Q— Matej Rijavec (@Matej_Rijavec) September 4, 2021
The statement says the protesters have been engaging in indecent behaviour on the site for months, "insulting staff and visitors, storming the RTV Slovenija building and disrupting work".
The management has pursued many official avenues to deal with the problem, sending complaints to police and the inspection authorities but "there has been no real response from those responsible".
Similarly, editor Janežič Ambrožič said their warnings since May had not met with response.
"We live in society where violence is only getting worse and it's but a step from harassment on Twitter to a violent house storm," she said, expressing concern that "few budge" in the face of violent scenes seen yesterday.
Information available to the STA indicates the incident involved members of the movement called Aware Residents of Slovenia, led by Ladislav Troha, a former army officer and veteran of the 1991 War of Independence.
The newspaper Večer reported that it was just yesterday that the RTVS works council filed a criminal complaint against the movement because its members have been harassing staff entering the building for months. The council also asked for a restraining order.
The police said it was looking into the incident and would act against violators in accordance with legislation.
In condemning the attack, the DNS association described the incident as the tip of the iceberg in the hate campaign against public media and journalists that was being incited by those in power.
Prime Minister Janša, reacting on his Twitter profile, denounced the incident by saying it has nothing to do with freedom of expression.
"It is violence against that freedom. All must be done to condemn and punish every self-willed and violent appropriation of public space and threats on the same terms and everywhere."
Janša posted four photographs with his tweet, one from Friday's incident, one from a protest at a session of the RTVS programme council a few years ago and photographs from protests in Ljubljana and Koper.
Vdor v poslopje @RTV_Slovenija ali katero koli drugo javno zgradbo nima nobene zveze s svobodo izražanja. Je nasilje nad to svobodo. Storiti je treba vse, da se vsako samovoljno in nasilno prilaščanje javnega prostora in grožnje obsodi in kaznuje z enakimi vatli vedno in povsod. pic.twitter.com/bTsu4VIpnp— Janez Janša (@JJansaSDS) September 4, 2021
He retweeted several other posts, including a tweet by Gregor Perič, the head of MPs of the junior coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC), saying it all started with a chainsaw in front of the parliament building, continued with attacks on MPs and now the storm to RTV Slovenija, which he condemned.
Janša also retweeted a post which said "the RTVS news programme has been encouraging for a year illegal neofascist protests, vandalism against public institutions, anti-vaxxer delusions [...] while now they are puzzled as they reap what they sowed".
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Aleš Hojs, condemning the incident in the strongest terms, tweeted it was partly the result of "what is being generated by [email protected], Prebold [email protected], and fake news @[email protected]".
He was referring to Jaša Jenull, a leading face of Friday's anti-government cycling protests, the Prebold primary school headteacher, who is known for his opposition to Covid measures, and the RTVS news magazine programme Tarča.
Hojs said penal and public order legislation would have to be toughened in response to the developments.