SLOVENIA: media ownership becoming increasingly problematic

(CIVICUS Monitor)

According to the Society of Journalists of Slovenia, media ownership by political parties, high-level public figures, and state-controlled companies is becoming increasingly problematic. While recent years saw some improvements in transparency – with news outlets openly stating their affiliation – there has been a growth in politically-partisan and commercially-influenced newspapers and online news platforms and televisions stations.

In an article exposing the links between Slovene tycoons and media, investigative Journalist Blaž Zgaga wrote that:

“The transition from a former socialist republic to a parliamentary democracy brought some successes and failures where the media ownership structure seems to remain one of the major blunders, as media owners openly or covertly control editorial policies”.

These media serve as public relations agencies for financial groups and parties and often discredit or attack critical journalists, a phenomenon that has led to an increase in hate speech and harassment of journalists on social media on an almost daily basis.

One example is the online news channel, which is connected to the Slovenian Democratic Party, a right-wing opposition party led by former Prime Minister Janez Jansa. In April 2017, three Hungarian media groups close to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán bought 45 percent of the channel’s shares. Igor Vobič from the Department of Journalism at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences commented on the situation, stating that:

“The weekly tabloid Škandal24 together with the television Nova24TV with their open party ownership and the unclear composition of the editorial office represent a new stage in the subordination of journalism as an activity of public responsibility, after the fall of political press. In the long run, this new Slovene media normality will lead to the erosion of the credibility of the media and professional journalism, and through the flows of social networks, deepens the confusion in modern communication, which is importantly defined by the permeable dividing line between the truth and the lie”. (Translated from Slovenian)

While the TV channel has a limited reach, the online news platform is very active and engages in daily, personal attacks against journalists. For example, on 13th March Nova24 published an article about journalist Nina Ambrož who covered the controversy around the Canadian car-painting plant’s move to Maribor. Nova24 called the journalist a “concealed lobbyist” and alluded to a close relationship she allegedly has with the Minister of Economic Development and Technology Zdravko Počivalšek. These comments were made in order to discredit her assertions that Maribor’s mayor had put pressure on the local media around the issue of the car-painting plant.

Political interference in the media is also visible at the local level in Slovenia. Online portal is owned by Multimedijski Center Vizija, a company which is fully owned by the Municipality of Koper, a city in the southwest of the country. The platform regularly attacks critical TV journalist Eugenija Carland the regional newspaper Primorske NoviceOn 16th March, the Ljubljana District Court ordered the municipality’s mayor to pay 3,500 EUR to Carl after she filed a complaint in December about comments the mayor had made about her physical appearance.

In the northern city of Maribor, TV station RTS now has an online portal and a free newspaper RTS24. These platforms are aimed at portraying a positive image of of Maribor’s mayor Dr. Andrej Fištravec by attacking media outlets and journalists who are critical of the mayor.

Originally published on CIVICUS Monitor

Featured image via Vecer