Journalists Say Slovenia Fails Test of Leadership in European Union over Press Freedom

The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European regional group of the International Federation of Journalists, today accused the Slovenian government of trying to spin its way out of trouble within the European Union over controversial claims that it is interfering in press freedom at home.

The EFJ says that political meddling with media in Slovenia casts a shadow over the country’s Presidency of the European Union. It has criticised the government over a public relations blitz directed at foreign media to try to divert attention from its domestic troubles.

“The Government cannot spin its way out of the hard truth that government and politicians have been exercising undue influence on the way Slovenian media work,” said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary. “Slovenia has failed the first test of leadership in Europe by failing to show that it is prepared to deal openly and honestly with serious questions over its own record on dealing with media and journalism.”

The Slovenian media crisis developed with the launch of a petition against censorship and political pressures on journalism which was signed by 571 journalists. The protest follows government attempts to replace leading editors in order to stifle media criticism. There is also widespread concern over legislative and management changes that have placed pro-government people in charge of the country’s public broadcasting system.

The EFJ says the government’s response has been intemperate and unacceptable.

“In November Prime Minister Janez Jansa dismissed the petition, which expresses genuine concern within Slovene journalism, as a conspiracy of lies,” said Aidan White. “This week he has accused local media of damaging the country’s international reputation, but the real failure is that of a government that will not take responsibility for its actions.”

The EFJ said it was ready to support an independent inquiry over the crisis, but the deputies of the ruling coalition rejected a proposal on December 11 to set up an independent committee to investigate the allegations.

The failure of the government to confront the criticism was further exposed yesterday when local journalists angrily protested over highly contentious publicity material on the media crisis prepared by government press officers for foreign correspondents visiting Slovenia for events around the opening of its Presidency of the European Union.

“The government is distorting the facts, failing to tell Slovenians the truth and trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the European public about its attitude to media,” said White. “It is a shameful start to what should be a proud moment in the history of democracy in Slovenia.”

For more information contact the EFJ at +32 2 235 2207
The EFJ represents over 250,000 journalists in over 30 countries worldwide