The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 13 August 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here
STA, 14 August 2020 - The left-wing magazine Mladina speaks out against hate speech, insults and an atmosphere of hatred that it says is being fuelled by the current government and coalition, a situation its editor says is worse than any economic crisis or the worst of the Communist era.
Grega Repovž, the editor-in-chief, argues in the latest edition that the review ordered by Interior Minister Aleš Hojs of some of the police investigations that have already been closed is yet another attempt to smear political opponents of the ruling coalition and two media outlets, POP TV and Mladina.
If there was "a shred of evidence" about the allegations of abuse of the dominant position by the broadcaster Pro Plus or about the money from public procurement of stents allegedly being siphoned off to Mladina, Repovž does not doubt investigators and prosecutors would have filed charges a long time ago, if only in order to get a conclusion in court.
"However, there has been no such evidence, the two stories are political fabrications, they have done enough damage to both media outlets because they are intriguing just enough to sow doubt in people. The aim of SDS leader Janša and Minister Hojs remains to impact on the reputation of the media by repeating those untruths."
However, Repovž says that no one is spared the insult or a smear campaign as long as they dare express criticism or a different opinion in public. As one example he offers the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, whose news programme editor Manica Janežič Ambrožič has shown on main news but a glimpse of the base insults she and other journalists are subject to on a daily basis.
"What is happening today is violence against society that is being committed by the ruling coalition of the SDS, SMC, NSi and DeSUS with the abetting of Zmago Jelinčič's nationalists (...) It is worse than any economic crisis."
Repovž argues that all the coalition partners take the blame for the level society has sunk to, no matter if they point their fingers at each other or at the senior coalition Democratic Party (SDS).
"This level of yours is an attack on (...) everything we wanted of this country, it is an attack on its formation, on a democratic and enlightened state that is supposed to unify (...)
"You are turning this society into a society of beasts. Does anyone truly believes that once you have conquered everything you aimed for, once you demolish all the systems, smear and humiliate the last civil servant, teacher, journalist and politician who will not humour you in your politically-motivated trials, a morning will break when it all goes back to normal, when we become people again?
"It is conduct not committed by the Slovenian Communists in the worst of times. And how many years it took us to pick ourselves up from that system and its errors? There are still traces of that history throughout society."
STA, 13 August 2020 – The right-wing Demokracija magazine argues in Thursday's commentary that the accusations against Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) leader Aleksandra Pivec are in fact an attack by proxy on Prime Minister Janez Janša and the entire government, as part of a conspiracy between leftist parties and the mainstream media.
"The hysterical and bizarre screaming by the left opposition and the mainstream media has one goal only: after they failed with the fabricated scandal with [Economy Minister] Zdravko Počivalšek and masks, Pivec is a handy target for an attack on Janez Janša and the centre-right government, which must collapse no matter the cost," the paper says in Media Mafia on Steroids.
"The DeSUS president is just collateral damage. If she was not, she would have been 'manhandled' every day over the SRIPT project. But she was not, because she was a part of the left coalition at the time.
"It is surprising and utterly fascinating how many negative traits the dominant media have suddenly discovered in Pivec. That is why what they are doing with their staged shows is a paranoid attack orchestrated with the left, it is by no means investigative journalism," editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says.
The commentator speaks about "mass hysteria" driven by the realisation that fewer and fewer people are buying this. Their only chance therefore is to scream and "increase the dose of lying steroids, but in the end this will lead to a collapse of their depraved philosophy".
Everything that is not theirs is labelled as a rightist conspiracy, but this is "a figment of their imagination, of a sick mind". There is no such rightist conspiracy, but there is a very tangible leftist conspiracy.
The media "no longer serves justice and the truth, this is why it is the job of (good) people to prevent the media mafia from continuing to make Slovenia their home," the paper concludes.
All our posts in this series are here
STA, 8 August 2019 - The Supreme Court has set an important legal precedent in a case involving hate speech against the Roma by holding that public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance is a crime not only when it threatens public peace and order but also in case of threats, abusive language or insults.
The case involves a comment posted by a Dolenjsko man in February 2011 on the web portal of a local radio station in the comment section below an article about a spate of break-ins and thefts targeting a local businessman.
"A couple of ammonal sticks, a couple of M75 grenades and a couple of AK-47s just in case, I don't think it can be done any other way. Or one by one... Can I have a music request: Where did all the gypsies go by Korado & Brendi," wrote the accused, according to the newspaper Dnevnik.
The man was initially given a suspended sentence of one month by the Novo Mesto Local Court in early 2013, but he was acquitted by a higher court which agreed with the defence's appeal.
The higher judges held that the comment did not amount to a crime because the amended Article 297 of the Penal Code meant that only acts that may be a threat to public order and peace in concrete circumstances qualify as a crime of public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance.
Dnevnik reports that such an interpretation of hate speech has often been cited in the past as the reason why intolerant and hateful incitement cannot be prosecuted.
However, five years after the Dolenjsko man was acquitted, the Office of the State Prosecutor General filed an appeal on a point of law, and the Supreme Court recently upheld the prosecution's interpretation. Although the ruling does not affect the acquittal it is seen as an important legal precedent.
The Supreme Court held that in cases when the act is committed by means of a threat, abusive language or insult, with other legal indications of a crime, the act does not necessarily need to potentially jeopardise public order and peace in order to be treated as crime.
The comment, which was one of many at the time calling for use of arms against the Roma, is "threat per se", the court said, adding that the comment had all the elements of crime, so it did not need to meet an additional condition that the act could lead to a disturbance of public order and peace.
The court said that prosecution of public incitement to hatred, violence or intolerance did not protect only public peace and order but also human dignity. It also noted that the Constitution guarantees the Roma additional protection and positive discrimination.
While the Office of the State Prosecutor General - whose expert council had only last November opted against changing the 2013 guidelines of hate speech prosecution that were also applied in the Dolenjsko man ruling - has not yet commented, the Justice Ministry as well as human rights groups have welcomed the development.
The Justice Ministry said it "is constantly stressing the role of courts in the interpretation of laws" and highlighted the importance of the decision as a precedent that does away with the narrow interpretation of Article 297 and can help form case law.
"We are aware of the increasingly severe problem of hate speech, which has an extremely negative effect on society and social discourse," it wrote.
The ministry also pointed to warnings by the Council of Europe's anti-racism commission regarding problems in Slovenia "with the understanding of legal issues pertaining to hate speech and problems with the social response to the spreading of hate speech".
Equal Opportunities Ombudsman Miha Lobnik also pointed to warnings from abroad and spoke of "an important turning point". He noted the prosecution of hate speech had been on the decline even though the phenomenon had been spreading in the public.
Andrej Motl of the online watchdog Spletno Oko (Online Eye) said the decision would significantly affect the prosecution of public incitement of hate, violence and intolerance, while Spletno Oko also expects the Office of the State Prosecutor General will change its guidelines accordingly.
Motl, who said hate speech had moved into the realm of the normal in recent years, also highlighted the report of the CoE's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI).
The report was released two months ago and spoke of the need to bridge, as a matter of priority, the "impunity gap in hate speech cases" in Slovenia that has resulted from an excessively strict interpretation of relevant legal provisions.
STA, 14 December 2018 - The Council of Europe and UNESCO are urging against violence towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and/or transgender individuals at schools in their latest report, which shows that in Slovenia 43% of young people were subject to this type of violence in 2014.
This can be psychological, physical or sexual violence that happens on school grounds and also on-line. Its most frequent forms are verbal violence and harassment, the CoE says in the report.
Such violence targeting members of the LGBTI community was detected in all CoE countries, most notably in Turkey (67%) and Belgium (47%).
In the section on the situation in Slovenia, the report refers to a 2013 research carried out by the EU's Fundamental Rights Agency.
The survey showed that 59% of the 636 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons "always" or "frequently" heard negative remarks about their classmates' sexual orientation or sexual identity and 30% of them are "always" or "frequently" the targets of such remarks themselves.
All our stories tagged LGBT can be found here
The report also refers to the 2014 survey in which 42.8% of respondents aged between 15 and 30 years reported of at least one experience of a homophobic attack during their education.
Slovenia is among the 32 CoE members that have explicitly banned discrimination based on sexual orientation at schools and is one of the 24 CoE countries that have explicitly banned discrimination based on sexual identity in education.
In 2016, the Slovenian anti-discrimination legislation expanded the list of the types of discrimination banned to discrimination based on sexual identity, while discrimination based on sexual orientation is banned by the Constitution.
The report released on Thursday is based on responses of public sector employees from 35 CoE member states.
The full report, in PDF form, can be read here
Mladina: An alliance is needed to fight SDS-associated media
STA, 30 November 2018 – The left-leaning weekly Mladina welcomes PM Marjan Šarec's appeal against state-owned companies running adds in hate-peddling media, but says it is only a first step. What needs to follow is the fostering of an alliance that will protect these companies in case of a change in power, Grega Repovž says in the weekly's latest editorial.
"Slovenian media have a problem... The Democrats (SDS), a political party, has an increasing number of products on the Slovenian market that are pretending to be media outlets... Because this propaganda machine it costly, it gets financial help from Hungary, from Viktor Orban," Repovž says.
He argues that the people of Slovenia and its media and journalists are not the only victims of this proliferation of fear and hatred by far-right parties working in concert.
Companies also find themselves under pressure, in particularly those that are involved with the state. Their managers know, including from experience under past SDS-led governments, that SDS leader Janez Janša will eventually end up issuing them a bill if they fail to cooperate.
Šarec's call was in order, but now the government has to follow up this first step by offering assistance and an alliance to these companies.
"If he is serious about this, it is not enough to point the finger at these companies. We posit that the reason why most of the exposed companies are advertising on these media platforms is their desire to secure the peace they need to do business normally," Repovž says under the headline First Step.
Speaking of the need for an alliance, he argues "this would benefit all genuine media" and lists several centrist and left-leaning media as well the right-leaning weekly Reporter.
It would also benefit politics, companies and above all the public. "The thing is a that radical politics is abusing liberal democratic institutes and institutions and rights (including those pertaining to the media and freedom of speech) and that this entails the undermining of democracy itself - and through that also of corporate autonomy."
Demokracija: Šarec’s anti-hate speech campaign is an attack on opposition media
STA, 29 November 2018 - The right-leaning weekly Demokracija says PM Marjan Šarec's recent call to state-owned companies to reflect on whether to advertise in media outlets instigating hate amounts to "the worst attack on the freedom of speech since independence", making him No. 1 enemy of the freedom of expression.
Šarec's call not to advertise in media outlets which are critical of mass migrations was a case of abuse of power par excellence, editor-in-chief Jože Biščak says on Thursday.
Although Šarec did not specify what hate content is and did not mention any media outlet, "it was clear he meant private opposition media – Demokracija and Nova24TV".
Instead of endorsing a referendum on whether Slovenia should join the UN-sponsored deal on migration, he in fact started implementing its objective 17, which speaks about media funding and advertising standards.
He announced, in the manner of the hardest communist times, attacks on the media which promote different views from those of the government and left-wing activists.
As an elected representative of the people, Šarec has a right to influence state-owned companies, for instance if state assets are poorly managed.
"But he is absolutely not authorised to use a state-owned company to suppress the fundamental and most important human right, that of the freedom of expression."
Biščak notes there is a short way from dictating state-owned companies where to advertise to police violence against those with different views.
"What is more, his actions show that he would be one of the first to abolish elections and ban opposition, whereby risking a civil war.
"He crossed the Rubicon, which he never should have," Biščak says, quoting philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's thesis "What we cannot speak about, we must pass over in silence."
While not denying Šarec the right to be critical or even harsh, Biščak says his instruction that advertisers should end their business cooperation with the opposition's media is "scandalous".
"In this way, by abusing power, Šarec has become enemy No. 1 of the freedom of speech," according to the commentary headlined Ludwig Wittgenstein's Seventh Thesis.
Other posts in this series can be found here (note that sometimes we use another right-wing weekly, Reporter)
STA, 26 November 2018 - Education Minister Jernej Pikalo discussed how to prevent anti-Semitism at Monday's session of the EU's Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council in Brussels, pointing to the thin line between freedom of speech and hate speech and noting that the educational system played the key role in preventing the spreading of hatred.
Pikalo said that all European societies had the problem of defining the line between freedom of speech and hate speech, which was why all kinds of deviations were taking place.
Related: Our stories on hate speech can be found here
The minister stressed that more proactivity in the prevention of spreading of hatred towards any individuals or groups would be introduced in the educational system.
"Policies and approaches in this field must be especially sensitive and proactive, because we must not allow any of the historical situations we were in to repeat," Pikalo stressed.
He said that the Holocaust must not be only a history lesson, but a lesson for the present time, adding that Slovenia was playing an active role in that respect.
Pikalo noted that around 50 teachers from Slovenia went to Israel every year as part of an educational programme, adding that Slovenia also had curricular and extracurricular activities which promoted democratic awareness.
In the context of hate speech, the minister also commented for the press on the call by Prime Minister Marjan Šarec to state-owned companies to reconsider pulling ads in the media which instigate hate speech.
Related: Our stories on Jewish Slovenia are here
Pikalo said that he supported Šarec's call. "It does not matter at the moment what direction the matter will take," he said, noting that the prime minister was not calling on the companies to act, but to consider an idea.
The EU ministers also discussed youth-related topics, focusing on the question of how to best implement the new European strategy for youth.
Pikalo said that from now on, the sessions of the government council for youth will feature relevant ministers, who would get better acquainted with the problems and challenges faced by the youth sector in Slovenia.
The ministers further discussed the Towards a European Education Area by 2025 document, a new initiative recently unveiled by the European Commission, which includes the idea to establish a network of European universities.
As a country which wants to be at the core of the EU, Slovenia wants to be connected in the field of education, said Pikalo, while noting that educational policies were always national policies.
The minister said that he had received initiatives from two Slovenian universities for cooperation at the EU level, adding that his ministry supported such integration.
STA, 23 November - Slovenia fares below average in terms of hate speech being removed from social media in 24 hours after such a case is reported, according to findings from 14 European countries. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube removed only 24% of such cases in Slovenia, as opposed to the average of 31% for all the countries taking part.
A campaign to check the social media giants' reaction to hate speech was carried out as part of a European project to fight hate speech and fake news.
NGOs tested their reaction as the social media committed to a European Commission code to remove hate speech from their platforms in 24 hours since it was reported.
In the period from March to May, the social media were notified of more than 700 cases of hate speech, Slovenian NGO Ekvilib Institute said on Friday.
Hate speech was categorised as racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, homophobia, hate towards the Roma, Muslims and migrants, and genocide denial.
Faring the worst was Twitter with 15%, followed by YouTube with 22%, while Facebook removed as many as 55% of all contentious cases.
Ekvilib said social media were more actively removing hate speech in the countries where the authorities and NGOs address this issue more seriously.
France did best with 56% of all problematic content removed within 24 hours, but Ekvilib noted that in Slovenia, hate speech was only rarely prosecuted.
It also stressed that the Council of Europe had recently urged the country to intensify its fight against hate speech, especially in the public domain.
The worst results were meanwhile recorded in non-EU members, for which the EU's code does not apply: Norway (7%), Ukraine (11%), Turkey (24%) and Montenegro (30%).
The campaign was also carried in Austria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Great Britain.
The anti-hate speech project is run by the European Grassroots Antiracist Movement from France and funded by the European Commission.
All out stories on hate speech in Slovenia can be found here
STA, 10 October 2018 - A hate speech trial against Slovenian Bishops' Conference secretary general Tadej Strehovec got under way at the Ljubljana Local Court on Wednesday, the culmination of a clash over prayers for unborn children staged by anti-abortion activists outside the Ljubljana gynaecology clinic.
STA, 1 June 2018 - Hate speech was one of the topics in the final debate of the election campaign broadcast by TV Slovenija last night with party leaders responding to the anti-hate protest rally held in Ljubljana earlier yesterday.