CoE Commissioner for Human Rights warns of media freedom in Slovenia

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic urged Slovenian authorities “to take action to defuse tensions in society and to encourage mutual respect in the exchange of views”.

Noting the specific responsibility of political leaders in this regard, she calls on members of the government in particular to use social media platforms responsibly and with dignity. “Members of the government should refrain from making stigmatizing and misleading comments about the work of civil society and should publicly condemn such discourse by others,” the commissioner said.

In a memo issued Friday, the Commissioner regrets that the Slovenian government appears to have used the COVID-19 pandemic to discourage the free expression of dissent or political opposition. Some measures restricting the right to protest, including prolonged blanket bans in public assemblies and heavy fines imposed on protesters, seem disproportionate and risk undermining freedom of expression. While aware of the authorities’ responsibility to protect public health, the Commissioner recommends that the authorities find the right balance to uphold the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. She stresses that democratic governance requires facilitating public participation and taking public opinion into account.

The commissioner further regrets the deteriorating conditions that support media freedom in Slovenia, pointing to a number of problems, including harassment, threats and criminal proceedings against journalists, restrictions on access to public information and government actions against public service media. . The Commissioner regrets in particular the trend of sexist harassment and misogynistic speech towards female journalists. “The government’s calm communication with journalists is important to set an example and reduce the level of hostility against the press in the country,” the commissioner said.

Mijatović in the Memorandum recommends that the authorities launch a social debate on how to tackle the plague of sexist harassment against female journalists, decriminalize defamation and change legislation to prevent abusive lawsuits aimed at undermining public participation. It also recommends facilitating journalists’ access to public information and state authorities and ratifying the Council of Europe Troms Convention on Access to Official Documents.

The Commissioner emphasizes that public service media serve a specific role in a democratic society, providing high quality programming to all segments of the population and reliable information. She regrets the steps taken by the government that threaten to undermine the independence, credibility and financial stability of the public broadcaster RTV and the national news agency STA. “It is of the utmost importance for media freedom in Slovenia to preserve the independent national press agency and I reiterate my call to the Slovenian government to urgently restore adequate public funding for the STA,” the Commissioner said.

The Commissioner notes that the recent deterioration of media freedom in Slovenia is taking place in the context of systemic weaknesses in regulating the media market in the country, which need to be addressed to strengthen independent, high-quality and diverse journalism. To this end, it recommends increasing the transparency of media ownership to address interventions in editorial independence based on political and commercial interests, addressing conflicts of interest between political parties and the media, and establishing a mechanism to ensure more effective market regulation. media.

“While a review of some media laws in the country seems necessary, the revised draft laws should take into account the input of media experts and representatives and not include any provisions that could weaken public service media,” Mijatović added. . Finally, the Commissioner recommends that the authorities consider drafting a national strategy to strengthen media independence and pluralism to better direct public funding towards the media.

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