Ljubljana related

25 Jul 2020, 09:25 AM

STA, 24 July 2020 - The Slovenian capital witnessed anti-government protests for the 14th consecutive Friday, with a new focus this time on women's rights.

The protesters, many of them on bicycles, gathered in Prešeren Square before doing a round of Ljubljana's centre, calling at government departments and other spots on the way.

As in the weeks before, participants carried banners expressing discontent with the government. Some were shouting slogans such as "Down with capital" "We won't give in" and calling for a world in which everyone will be able to live a decent life.

The demonstrators did a round of the ministries of health and interior affairs, as well as RTV Slovenija where they expressed their support for the public broadcaster service.

Like the week before, the protest was to wrap up with a "popular assembly" in Prekmurski Trg square, as the participants decided to form their demands and expectations for Slovenia's future.

Part of the protesters gathered already in the afternoon to call for zero tolerance of sexual harassment and violence against women and expressing support for the MeToo movement.

Those protesters, mostly women, carried slogans saying "yes means yes" to call for a redefinition of rape and crimes against sexual inviolability based on the consent standard.

Trade unionist Tea Jarc made a speech in favour of a ban on Sunday shopping after the government lifted the ban imposed at the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

The pro-government counter-protesters that have become a new feature in recent weeks announced on Twitter today that they would mix amongst the anti-government protesters to conduct a "monitoring" to "identify left extremists".

Protest campaigns were also held in some other Slovenian towns, including Maribor, Piran and Velenje.

 

18 Jul 2020, 09:30 AM

STA, 17 July 2020 - Anti-government protests were held in several Slovenian cities for the 13th week running on Friday. The messages remained broadly the same.

In Ljubljana people flocked to Prešeren Square to protest "reign of terror and dictatorship", as an invitation posted in one of the largest protest groups on Facebook said.

The protest culminated with a "people's assembly" in a bid to formulate clearer demands.

In previous weeks anti-government protesters were disrupted by counter-protests staged by a pro-government group that calls itself "Yellow Vests" whose members wear high visibility vests.

This time the group, some of whose members were outed by leftist media as supporters of Neonazi causes, decided to eschew protesting.

Instead they announced they would mix in with the crowd and covertly snap pictures and films of as many anti-government protesters as possible in order to identify and out them.

There was however a sort of anti-protest prompted by the actions of an individual who last week heckled an accordion player who is a famous permanent presence at Prešeren Square.

Several dozen accordion players gathered there today in support playing Slovenian tunes.

15 Jul 2020, 19:20 PM

STA, 15 July 2020 - Several hundred journalists and media workers gathered on Wednesday to protest against a media reform planned by the government in front of the National Assembly, where the parliamentary Culture Committee is discussing the proposed changes to three media laws.

Convinced the reform would undermine the Slovenian public media's financial stability and independence, the protesters urged the independence and freedom of the media in their addresses as well as with banners and shouts.

In an 30-minute protest, addresses were delivered by representatives of the Slovenian Journalist Association (DNS) as well as by journalists and media workers from the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), other media outlets and journalist trade unions.

The bulk of the criticism was directed at the proposal to redistribute RTV Slovenija's licence fee among RTV Slovenija (92%) and the STA (3%) and allocate 5% to promote media plurality.

The proposal to transfer the appointment of STA supervisors from parliament to the government was severely criticised as well.

"Responsible journalism must always advocate and defend the foundations of democracy in all fields of society ... we must never allow for media freedom to be undermined," said DNS head Petra Lesjak Tušek, a newspaper Večer journalist and editor.

She said the journalist profession and the entire media industry in Slovenia were being devalued, whereas many European countries understand, especially during the coronavirus crisis, that "support for media is part of the solution" rather than a problem, she said.

In a statement read on behalf of STA journalists and editors, Mojca Zorko, home desk editor, wondered who is bothered by the existing provision that the STA must not become - de fact or de iure - dependent on any ideological, political or economic grouping.

"And who would welcome changing the STA leadership every year and a half, which is the average term of Slovenian governments in the past 10 years.

"And why would anyone want to reduce the staff's influence on the appointment of editor-in-chief. The answer is clear and the consequences as well: to destabilise and discredit the STA," Zorko said, stressing the proposed changes were a major step back in providing for the STA's autonomy and independence.

TV Slovenija journalist Miša Molk said the planned cuts in RTV Slovenija's funding entailed killing the public service and politics invading the people's right to information.

The Trade Union of Journalists criticised the government's attempt to interfere in public media and urged the Culture Ministry, which is in charge of media policy, to withdraw the planned changes to the three laws.

The amendments to the media, RTV Slovenija and STA laws have been met with much criticism at home and abroad for the changes they would bring and for a mere week-long public consultation period that was initially envisaged, but prolonged yesterday.

Today's session of the parliamentary committee was demanded by the four left-leaning opposition parties, which argued they were worried about the media reports about the changes to the RTV law which were being drafted by the Culture Ministry in haste and in secret.

All our stories on the media in Slovenia are here

11 Jul 2020, 09:34 AM

STA, 10 July 2020 - Anti-government protests resumed for the 12th Friday running in Ljubljana and some other Slovenian towns, with calls in support of independent media added to the list of demands. Also targeted were those who protesters said supported the "unbearable situation" in the country through inaction.

The protests in the capital were centred on the huge square in front of the parliament building which had not been fenced off, but there was considerable police presence, as an anti-protest by government supporters wearing yellow vests was also held simultaneously.

Protesters, many of whom arrived on bicycles, presented a variety of demands, including freedom of movement, decision-making, assembly and speech. They slammed corruption, stealing of public money, the government's attitude to NGOs as well as to the media. They also spoke out against the contact tracing app.

Protesters from the western Primorska region and the neighbouring Italy expressed their opposition to what they called historical revisionism and to the planned laying of wreaths by President Borut Pahor at the Foiba of Basovizza memorial, which they see as treason.

For the third time the anti-government protesters were joined by government supporters, some of whom said they wanted to symbolise the voice of conventional workers who they said the "Marxist international" had forgotten about.

Carrying Slovenian flags, the yellow vests voiced their opposition to the Antifa movement, calling out slogans such as being a patriot did not mean being a fascist.

The anti-government protesters argued that politics was artificially dividing the nation, they said they too fought for Slovenia and that antifascists were not terrorists.

Many of the anti-government protesters were wearing face masks and some wore carnival costumes to mirror the "political political masquerade" in the country.

Touring the streets of Ljubljana, mostly on bicycles, they stopped at the headquarters of junior coalition partners, accusing them of condoning bad practices.

06 Jul 2020, 14:57 PM

STA, 6 July 2020 - The State Prosecutors' Council condemned a letter PM Janez Janša recently addressed to the state prosecutor general, criticising alleged inaction in prosecuting death threats expressed at anti-government protests and attacks on the police taking place as part of them. It labelled the letter an "unacceptable and political pressure".

In the 19 June letter to Drago Šketa, Janša said the prosecution was neglecting its legal role in relation to the anti-government protests for failing to respond to incitement to violence.

Janša also said that Šketa would be responsible if the violence escalated. "You will be directly responsible for any potential victims of the organised threats," Janša wrote, referring to slogans and banners such as Death to Janšism.

The Prosecutorial Council sees the latter as unacceptable and political pressure by the most senior representative of the executive branch of power on the state prosecutor general.

It believes that by referring to Šketa's direct responsibility, the letter expects him to act in contradiction with his legal powers, or the systemic arrangement of the state prosecution in Slovenia, which would result in an unacceptable encroachment on the independence of state prosecutors.

The council stressed that state prosecutors were independent under the law, bound only by the law and the constitution, and that the head of the state prosecution could not force a state prosecutor to take a specific decision in a specific case.

The council moreover referred to the Constitutional Court arguing in one of its rulings that an arrangement enabling unacceptable pressure on a state prosecutor to act in a certain manner would be in contradiction with the Constitution.

A similar response came from Šketa, who said last week that the state prosecution and state prosecutors worked efficiently and in line with the law. Janša's letter was also criticised by part of the opposition, with the Social Democrats (SD) saying they could file an impeachment motion against the prime minister.

05 Jul 2020, 12:55 PM

The covers and editorials from leading weeklies of the Left and Right for the work-week ending Friday, 3 July 2020. All our stories about coronavirus and Slovenia are here

Mladina: Truth Behind PPE Scandal House Raids

STA, 3 July 202 - The left-wing magazine Mladina writes in the latest editorial that the reaction to the house raids in the investigation of ventilator procurement were so strong because the deal that is being investigated is not Economy Minister Zdravko Počivalšek's but rather of the ruling Democratic Party (SDS).

Under the headline SDS's Deal, editor-in-chief Grega Repovž writes that Počivalšek was not surprised when crime investigators called on him.

"He was ready, he knew they were coming, at least a day earlier he had been notified of their coming one way or another by Aleš Hojs, the outgoing interior minister, or Anton Travner, now former police commissioner, if not through intermediaries by someone higher up."

Repovž says that Hojs tried to cover up his forewarning to those involved by having the info aired by Nova24, "the party TV".

However, he also says that Hojs may have learnt about the timing of the house searches beforehand, he had "obviously not known for months about the ongoing investigation", which Repovž surmises based on the assumption that the police have collected enough evidence for search and detention warrants.

Repovž describes Počivalšek as an ambitious person who enjoys having privileges and power, something that he says Prime Minister Janez Janša recognised and humoured him by awarding him security guards and the title of deputy prime minister.

"He is not hiding that after the ministerial stint he would like to control the Slovenian tourism - adapting the law that would make that possible for him in plain sight (...) He would like to be a king of Slovenian tourism just like Zoran Janković passed as retail master until he was replaced by the first Janša government."

Repovž allows for the possibility that Počivalšek, who agreed with Janša that medical purchases would be conducted through intermediaries, did not know the point was to allow the intermediaries to make money.

"He may have been set up - just like under the first Janša government the procurement of Patria APCs was planted on Karl Erjavec, who likewise enjoyed immensely being defence minister and having the power, bragging about the purchase of that amazing equipment until it turned out Janša's closest aides struck the deal behind his back with the intention of obtaining commissions."

Judging by what those involved say, including the whistleblower Ivan Gale, Repovž says that Počivalšek soon realised what had been going on, considering he told Gale that the ventilators ordered through GenePlanet were "the SDS's deal".

Even though Počivalšek did not gain directly from the deal, Repovež notes that it is still crime if you made a deal possible knowing you would get some indirect benefit such as the government taking decisions to your benefit.

Repovž agrees that the subject of investigation is the SDS's deal, hence such a strong reaction from the SDS leader and PM Janša, his "ire with Hojs and Travner so immense he sacked them on the spot".

"Crime investigators have an easy job: they are dealing with people who do not find anything wrong or unusual about what they were doing, rather they believe that by gaining power that belongs to them as well. However, Počivalšek has the same problem."

Demokracija: People will not tolerate anarchists much longer

STA, 2 July 2020 - In its latest commentary headlined White Lives Matter, Too!, the right-wing weekly Demokracija says that not only in the US, but in Slovenia too, the self-proclaimed "anti-racists" have completely lost their compass, but adds that people will not be tolerating this for much longer.

"The well-known left-wing mafia of extremists has gone diabolically after the slogan of the Slovenian fashion magazine Gloss that says 'All Lives Matter' under a picture of black model Olivia Sang", the right-leaning weekly adds.

According to editor-in-chief Jože Biščak, this was enough for them to completely lose their minds. "This may mean that they will, just like they modified the freedom of expression, change the understanding of another human freedom, that is that a human life is untouchable."

All Lives Matter means exactly that - every life is important (including lives of white people), while the Black Lives Matter slogan puts black people in a privileged position, he adds.

Biščak notes that the latest cover of Demokracija features an adaptation of a scene from the video by African-American rapper XXXTentacion in which a black boy observes a white boy being hanged.

The artist faced only lenient criticism at the time, while the editor believes that Demokracija will be accused of racism.

"I get sick, my stomach turns every time I hear such accusations. It is all our fault, us conservatives and Christians from the right. We are good for the leftists only until we are cornered and we play the game of the second-rate ones while their orchestra plays.

"Once the music stops, they go berserk, they all of a sudden recognise only one law, the law of the street. The more rampaging and destruction, the better. And them hitting the streets, it is again our fault."

According to Biščak, it should be clear to anybody with the right mind that people from the left want to "turn the homeland into an infernal hole", but people will not tolerate this behaviour of "spoiled anarchists" for much longer.

All our posts in this series are here

04 Jul 2020, 09:13 AM

STA, 3 July 2020 - Police security was beefed in the centre of Ljubljana on Friday as the anti-government protests held every week in the Slovenian capital were joined by a smaller counter-protest of government supporters.

Taking to the streets for the 11th consecutive Friday, hundreds of demonstrators remounted their bicycles to voice their opposition to the government, as well as against fascism and nationalism.

Even before the protest, a smaller group of a few dozen government supporters clad in yellow vests gathered in Prešeren Square carrying banners saying Anarchists and Left Fascists and Antifa=Terror, as well as a picture of a swastika and the red star with the equals sign between them.

The group first appeared among the anti-government crowd at the alternative Statehood Day Ceremony held on 24 June shortly before the official state ceremony, announcing they would stage counter protests for each anti-government rally.

They told the media their intention was to "prevent a coup", thwart attempts to "bring down the government by means of show trials", and prevent "falling back in totalitarianism".

The yellow vests also moved to the square in front of the parliament building and then filed past the headquarters of RTV Slovenija, criticising the public broadcaster and calling for it to be scrapped.

The yellow vests' rally had been "condemned in the strongest terms" by almost 100 organisations and initiatives supporting the anti-government protests.

In a press release issued before the events, they said the yellow vests were in fact members of neo-Nazi groups, their links to the ruling Democratic Party (SDS) being "well documented, their discourse virtually identical to the discourse of the political".

They argued that "neo-Nazi gangs have come to the defence of the ruling coalition with the intention to provoke and escalate" the situation.

Concern was raised after pictures emerged from the 24 June protest showing one of the yellow vests performing a Nazi salute, and online posts saying several yellow vests were Blood&Honour members.

The police tightened security, telling the STA beforehand they had zero tolerance of all forms of displays of hatred, intolerance or violence and were taking action targeting deviant conduct.

Despite some tension, the protests passed off without a major confrontation, as did a similar protest and counter-protest in Maribor, Slovenia's second city.

Already in the morning, some of the anti-government protesters had been received by President Borut Pahor for what his office said was an "exchange of opinions and views, which differed on some points".

Pahor appealed for dialogue, which he said should be sought even when it appeared to have been exhausted.

One of the protesters who took part in the meeting, Tjaša Prošek told the STA that they had posed concrete questions but failed to get any answers. Pahor would also not respond to their invitation to address the crowed rallying every Friday.

Part of protesters and some of the groups involved said the protesters who attended the meeting with Pahor did not represent them.

"Those representatives certainly do not represent the whole protest movement. We hope their response has to do solely with political naivety and adventurism," several groups said in a press release.

All our stories on protests in Slovenia

03 Jul 2020, 10:31 AM

STA, 2 July 2020 - PM Janez Janša has sent a letter to State Prosecutor General Drago Šketa, saying the prosecution is neglecting its legal role in relation to the anti-government protests for failing to respond to inciting to violence. The letter in which he also says Šketa will be responsible if the violence escalates has been met with strong criticism.

Janša published the letter dated 19 June in full on Twitter today after the newspaper Dnevnik ran an article about it. Janša tweeted he had decided to publish the letter "because the unofficial Official Gazette of the deep state (globoka država), Dnevnik.si, published insinuations" about the letter.

In the letter, the prime minister says that "we have been witnessing stepping up of organised death threats" in recent months and that the prosecution was passively observing this despite the clear restrictions that the Constitution and the Penal Code impose on such behaviour. Janša says that in some cases the prosecution indirectly even encourages such behaviour.

"You will be directly responsible for any potential victims of the organised threats," Janša wrote Šketa, referring to slogans and banners reading "Death to Janšism".

He also says that members of different extremist organisations from neighbouring and other countries, which are known for the use of street violence and other types of violence, are taking part in the protests held on Fridays, calling for a violent bringing down of the existing constitutional order. "And the state prosecution is silent like a fish in the tank."

Janša notes that slogans such as Juden Raus or Death to Fascism have in the past led to the killings of first individuals and then to genocide and crimes against humanity.

The prime minister sees the events at the anti-government protests as "organised death threats to an entire democratic political bloc", and calls on Šketa to act before it is too late.

Šketa responded to the letter today by asserting that the prosecution was efficient and acting in line with the Constitution and law.

He said that he had been noticing a growing amount of intolerance and hostility in the public discourse for years. Noting that he never gave any guidelines or instructions to prosecutors, who must be fully independent in their work, Šketa said that reports on the work of the prosecution showed that prosecutors decided to act against inciting to violence or hostility only when they detect legally-set signs of a criminal act or offence.

According to Dnevnik, the State Prosecutorial Council discussed the letter on Monday and is expected to publicly respond to it next week.

A much stronger reaction meanwhile came from former State Prosecutor General Zvonko Fišer, who told Dnevnik that he had not witnessed such a move in his entire career as prosecutor, not even in Yugoslavia.

He finds this kind of pressure completely inappropriate and inadmissible.

Heavy criticism also came from the head of the opposition Social Democrats (SD), Tanja Fajon, who said the letter was "very inappropriate, presumptuous and unacceptable".

She sees it is yet another attack on independent institutions and a severe encroachment upon another branch of power, which is why the party plans to initiate an impeachment motion against the PM.

At least ten MPs can initiate the impeachment, so SD MPs alone could do it. Fajon said the party had not discussed the move with other opposition parties yet.

The Justice Ministry told Dnevnik that the law enforcement was in charge of passing judgements on individual actions and was completely independent and that the law enforcement must be allowed to do its job professionally. If it fails to do so, certain surveillance mechanisms are available.

This was echoed by Justice Minister Lilijana Kozlovič before today's government session. Asked whether she sees Janša's letter as a form of pressure on an independent branch of power, she said this was the PM's decision, which was why she would not comment.

She noted though that any kind of intolerance or hostility must be processed as part of a criminal or minor offence proceedings because too much of that was happening.

Asked to comment on the statements by the outgoing interior minister, Aleš Hojs, that the National Bureau of Investigation and the crime police were full of staff linked to the firmer Communist secret service UDBA and the Communist Party, Kozlovič said she had no such information.

The Office of President Borut Pahor, which also received a copy of the letter, said that the prosecution must be independent in its work.

Our stories on the protests in Slovenia

27 Jun 2020, 09:25 AM

STA, 26 June 2020 - Anti-government protesters took to the streets of Ljubljana on Friday evening in what have become traditional Friday rallies. They packed Prešeren Square where they protested over police erecting fences and put chains around the monument of Slovenian leading poet France Prešeren in a symbolic move to warn about the cultural crisis.

Several thousand then toured the capital, but kept away from Republic Square even though the venue, otherwise a popular place for assemblies and rallies, was not fenced off this evening as it was previous Friday, a government decision that has raised a lot of dust.

They protested over the police putting up fences in the capital, a city that has a collective memory of the Fascists fencing it off entirely with a barbed wire to suppress any resistance movement during the Second World War.

On Wednesday, on the eve of Statehood Day, fences were erected across the centre of Ljubljana to fence off the official state ceremony.

Images from Wednesday

Moreover, apart from last Friday when Republic Square was completely fenced off, during a few previous Friday anti-government rallies, the square was partly closed off.

The protesters see all that as the police encroaching upon their right to assembly. Their posters and banners as well as speeches said that no fence would stop them.

On their route, they passed the Presidential Palace, most on foot, some also on bicycles, with many voicing their disapproval of President Borut Pahor.

They walked around an occupied Ljubljana, as they said, and wrapped up the rally in Congress Square where the state ceremony was held and in nearby Zvezda Park, holding up posters proclaiming it Republic Square.

"Every Friday when thousands of people take to the streets, peacefully, in a dignified manner, we win. They tried to fence us off and restrict assembling. They failed and they will fail," said theatre director Jaša Jenull, one of the informal organisers of the Friday rallies.

Putting Prešeren symbolically in chains was a warning about the cultural crisis in the wake of the coronavirus crisis, but also a protest gesture over restricting assembling.

YELLOW VESTS

Furthermore, the spot around the monument was the place where pro-government protesters in yellow vests gathered to oppose the Statehood Day alternative ceremony on Wednesday evening. There was some tension and banners saying Anarchists are Left-Wing Fascists were displayed by a few dozens in yellow vests.

Some 7,000 people gathered in the heart of Ljubljana to protest against the government on that day, according to police estimates.

Today, prior to the rally, a group of protesters also stopped by the opposition Social Democrats (SD) headquarters where they expressed their opposition to the entire political aisle, saying they had enough of "the left, the right and the quasi-centre politicians who are not working for the good of the nation", read social media posts.

Meanwhile, the number of police officers monitoring the protest seemed to be lower this Friday. The Ljubljana Police Administration told the STA that it could not disclose the exact figure, citing tactical reasons.

The police warned the protesters about anti-Covid-19 restrictions and notified the relevant authorities of any violations today as it had been doing during the previous Friday rallies, it added.

Apart from Ljubljana, anti-government protests were also held in a number of other Slovenian cities, including Maribor and Celje.

In Maribor, Ivan Gale, the whistleblower from the Agency for Commodity Reserves who alleged wrongdoing in the purchases of masks and further sparked the rallies, addressed the protesters.

25 Jun 2020, 11:30 AM

STA, 24 June 2020 - Several thousand people packed Prešeren Square in the heart of Ljubljana to state their opposition to the policies of the Janez Janša government on the eve of Statehood Day just a couple of hours before the official state ceremony on the occasion was due to begin in Congress Square, a stone's throw away.

The event was being monitored closely by police and there was some tension as a few dozen counter-protesters in yellow vests arrived in the square, carrying banners saying Anarchists are Left Fascists.

The smaller group lined up in front of the monument to poet France Prešeren in the centre of the square, inviting boos and shouts "troublemakers" from the crowd turning up for the alternative ceremony, with the programme continuing from the stairs leading up to the church on the opposite side of the square.

The programme featured a women's choir signing The Internationale, the left-wing anthem, and speeches calling for a better world and against fascism, exclusions and restrictions on NGOs.

Those taking to the stage included culture workers, who called for a boycott of the state ceremony, arguing that the Slovenian population's referendum decision to break away from Yugoslavia had been abused to restore outdated capitalism, plunder social property, erase a part of the population and establish a political class of untouchables and their sidekicks.

The group organising today's alternative ceremony had been holding weekly protests in front of the Ministry of Culture over what it said was the ministry's lack of response to the crisis in the culture sector.

The group, much like protesters that have been turning up for demonstrations on bicycles or on foot for several Fridays, also criticised "desire for absolute power", insults and exclusion which they attributed to the current government and in particular PM Janša.

The event was also addressed by young climate activists and other environmental activists. It was attended by artists, writers, performers and some opposition politicians, including former Prime Minister Marjan Šarec, who told reporters he came to support people who turned up because they loved their country but disagreed with the government's actions.

Among those present was also Ivan Gale, the whistleblower from the Agency for Commodity Reserves who alleged wrongdoing in the purchases of masks, and a flag carrying member of the association fostering the heritage of the Partisan WWII resistance.

Flag-bearers had been barred from the state ceremony, ostensibly because of the coronavirus, which is why those turned up for a ceremony in Trzin, which was addressed by Ladislav Lipič, the head of the association of the 1991 war of Slovenian veterans.

The participants in the alternative Ljubljana ceremony later walked to the Presidential Palace and government headquarters, where they laid flowers and lit candles in tribute of the erased, before ending the protest in the French Revolution Square.

The streets around Congress Square where the state ceremony started at shortly after 9pm were cordoned off. Šarec commented that the whole city was being fenced in and that there had been more railings erected every week, criticising police acting against some participants in the weekly Friday protests.

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