‘He wants to destroy us’, independent media under pressure in EU President Slovenia

There are concerns about the Slovenian Presidency of the EU in Brussels. Many MEPs are skeptical about the plans presented by Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa yesterday. The EU is also concerned about the independent media under pressure in the country. Those concerns are more than justified, says the editor in chief of the Slovenian news agency STA. โ€œHe wants to destroy us.โ€

The morning meeting at the Slovenian news agency STAs office will talk about the Prime Minister, Jansa. It looks like a normal editorial meeting. But appearances cheat. โ€œThe news agency is on the brink of bankruptcy,โ€ says Editor-in-Chief Barbara Strukelj. โ€œAccording to the law, we are entitled to a government contribution of 2 million a year. But we havent gotten a penny this year.โ€

The newly new President of the European Union is waging war against the media, according to his own words. According to Strukelj, her news agency is not the only independent medium to experience its consequences. Public broadcasting is also under pressure. Jansa is known for attacking journalists via Twitter in the style of former U.S. President Donald Trump, whom he is a great admirer.

โ€œHe wants to ruin us.โ€

In order to keep working without the government contribution, the Slovenian news agency organised a successful crowdfunding campaign. โ€œThat so many people were willing to donate money via SMS gave a lot of mental support,โ€ says Strukelj.

โ€œBut, of course, its not a solution. Five of our best people have started elsewhere because of the uncertain situation here. If five more go, we wont be able to uphold our professional standards as we want.โ€

According to the editor-in-chief, thats what Jansa is looking for. โ€œHe wants to destroy us. I dont know why, because we do nothing but let people speak. But if those people say something the Prime Minister doesnt like, he accuses us of lying and manipulating.โ€

Right Countersound

A little further is Nova24TV television channel, founded a few years ago by party mates and supporters of the Prime Minister. Thats what its about Jansa too. โ€œWe were founded because all media were in the hands of left-wing journalists,โ€ says Editor-in-Chief Boris Tomasic. โ€œThey do nothing but lie and cheat things. It was high time a conservative television station like ours came.โ€

Many Slovenians consider his station as a propaganda channel for the Prime Minister, but thats not how Tomasic sees it. โ€œWhat propaganda? We are an outspoken conservative television station. If the Prime Minister does something we like, why shouldnt I say that, is that propaganda?โ€

In addition to editor-in-chief, Tomasic is an anchor of the daily opinion program Who lies to you?. โ€œMore than enough dust to fill half an hour every day,โ€ he laughs. This week was about European Commissioner Frans Timmermans. He had criticized the Slovenian Prime Minister.

In his show Tomasic calls the Dutch politician โ€œa spoiled child who was offendedโ€. He doesnt have a good word for Janez Jansa critics. โ€œAnyone who says that independent media is under pressure in Slovenia has no idea what theyre talking about. On public channels, you can see discussions with just like-minded people. Thats the real disaster. We are telling our truth to that.โ€

Despite Tomasics reassuring words, the European Union is concerned about the independent media under pressure in Slovenia. At the beginning of the Presidency, the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen explicitly warned the Slovenian Prime Minister to give the news agency the contributions it has legal right to. But at STA they dont rest assured that thats actually going to happen.

โ€œI dont expect anything from it,โ€ says Editor-in-Chief Barbara Strukelj. Like the EU, she is worried that her country takes the same path as the clubs other caring children, Hungary and Poland. โ€œIts hard not to see the agreements with those countries,โ€ says Strukelj, โ€œEspecially when it comes to the media. The European Union needs to keep an eye on the situation. Maybe they could set up a media fund to keep organizations like ours up. Because if were really bankrupt later, that means our end.โ€