Slovenian government 'using Covid-19 to attack press'

Slovenian government 'using coronavirus to attack press'

Earlier this year Jansa's Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) proposed reforms to the funding of STA and RTV

Representative image/Credit: Reuters Photo

Editors of the most influential Slovenian news outlets on Wednesday accused the centre-right government of using the coronavirus crisis to attack independent and critical media.

"The crisis or any other event should not serve as an alibi for damaging changes to media legislation or for attempts to politically intervene in media outlets' independence," an open letter signed by 22 editors of the major media outlets said.

Shortly after taking office in March, during the first wave of the coronavirus crisis, Prime Minister Janez Jansa -- a close ally of Hungary's Victor Orban -- launched harsh attacks on critical media and journalists, accusing them of serving hidden interests linked to the former communist regime.

Last week, Jansa attacked the national news agency STA, calling it a "national disgrace".

Jansa was irked by the fact STA had given more space to an interview with a musician critical of curfews and mandatory mask rules than to a meeting between Jansa and Orban which took place the same day.

Jansa this week criticised the main public and private TV stations, tweeting that in other EU countries "those individuals or groups that deny the virus, oppose measures or ignore the suffering of others have access only to Facebook, while in Slovenia they have unlimited space in RTV Slovenia and POP TV."

Earlier this year Jansa's Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) proposed reforms to the funding of STA and RTV which critics said would have given the government outsize influence over both outlets.

The reforms had to be withdrawn after opposition from junior coalition partners.

The protest letter was signed by the chief editor of public broadcaster RTV's news programmes, the daily newspapers Delo, Dnevnik, Vecer, the STA news agency and two out of the three main political weeklies.

"We reject such attacks on the media and journalists," the letter said, accusing the government of "attributing non-existent agendas (to journalists) and forcing them onto the political stage".

The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI) warned in September Slovenia was among the few countries in Europe that have experienced a swift downturn in press and media freedom since Jansa's government took over.