SLOVENIA: Worry spate of attacks on journalists as new government formed in Slovenia

(European Civic Forum on CIVICUS Monitor)

In July and August 2018, the Slovenian Association of Journalists reported two physical attacks and a verbal threat on journalists. On 8th August, a man drove into a journalist and a cameraman working for Television Slovenia (TVS) in Nova Gorica. They were recording a report on the relationship between the inhabitants of Gorizia and Nova Gorica, when the perpetrator screamed at the journalists and later drove towards them with his car. The camera was destroyed, but the cameraman managed to avoid being hit. The attacker was not found and reportedly fled across the border to Italy.

The Slovenian Association of Journalists stated:

“With great concern, we find that there are more and more cases in recent times when Slovenian journalists are targeted by threats and attacks, verbal and physical.” (Translated from Slovenian)

Earlier in 2018, the Slovenian Association of Journalists had reported to the CIVICUS Monitor increased pressure on journalists in the lead up to the elections.

In a separate incident, at the end of July 2018, a Slovenian man who had been convicted in Italy of recruiting fighters for the terrorist organisation known as the Islamic State, physically attacked a journalist and filmmaker from Planet TV who were attempting to film in front of his house. The Association of Journalists and Publicists (ZNP) strongly condemned the attack:

“Physical as well as any other similar attacks on journalists and cameramen are inadmissible as they are persons who carry out a service in the public interest. And if a person who was convicted for such acts is returned from a prison in Italy, such as the recruitment of fighters for the extremist group Islamic State, then this is certainly in the public interest.”

These incidents coincide with increasing hate speech and intolerance online in Slovenia. For example, at the end of August 2018, the editor in chief of the daily Večer, Matija Stepišnik, received a death threat on Facebook. A user on the Facebook page of Nove24TV wrote that he should be shot in the head. The post was removed by Facebook and the editor reported the threat to the police.

The Slovenian Association of Journalists urged all journalists and people to report harassment and physical assault to the police and requested the Media Inspectorate to monitor the removal of harmful comments in online media. The organisation also called for a change in the criminal legislation to allow for more effective sanctioning of hate speech and threats.

Špela Stare, from the Slovenian Association of Journalists, told the CIVICUS Monitor that the current criminal law on hate speech sets the bar so high that it is difficult to sanction verbal offences if there is no physical harm to a person or to the public order. As a result, she reports an increasing normalisation of such episodes.

Merger of daily newspapers

The owners of Večer and Dnevnik, the second and third biggest daily newspapers in Slovenia, announced a merger at the end of August 2018. The Slovenian Association of Journalists expressed concern about this, due to the likely decrease in job opportunities and media plurality. According to the Association, the employees of the parent company were told of the decision when the agreement was already reached, and without the trade union having been informed in advance. Before it can go through, the merger will need the approval of the Ministry of Culture and Slovenia’s competition protection agency.