OK, so the title is intentionally dubious and the reason for it is the recent politically induced turmoil that has engulfed the most influential Slovene media. On the whole it can be said that this is indicative of the looming showdown which is widely expected to leave many dead and wounded (figuratively speaking) and to be down right dirty (literally speaking).
As noted in yesterday’s post, the battle of the headlines has already begun. This includes pressure on Slovene media which has never been totally free and independent. One rather curious statement was uttered by Jože Školč MP, a political veteran of the Liberal Democrats (among other posts he held the office of chairman of the Socialist Youth while the organisation was a driving force behind democratic changes, president of the parliament and minister of culture). Mr. Školč, while debating the state of Slovene media in the parliamentary committee said that “if the left [while in power] did things wrong, this is no excuse for the right to do the same“.
Which is of course correct. What is interesting, though, is that the former ruling option (broadly speaking, the political left) is at least on the surface apparently coming to terms with its deeds while in power. I say finally, because deeds of this government made the pressures exerted by previous governments look like a picnic. And this is the main problem. Instead of media becoming increasinlgy independent (I won’t utter the word untouchable, but feel free to think it), they are becoming more and more criticised for not reporting on this-or-that.
One of the more symptomatic phrases in yesterdays session of the parliamentary committee for culture (which covers media as well) was uttered by one of the coalition MPs who said that the “opposition has no proof of media control by the coalition“. Furthermore, the minister of culture, Vasko Simoniti, Ph. D. (otherwise a respected intelectual) challenged the opposition to name at least ten cases of government controlling the media (“You said ‘cases’! Plural! That’s not one or two! Plural! I want at least ten!”), etc, etc.
Obviously, if the government (and the opposition as well) would take their heads out of their asses and have a look around they would find that:
a) The Prime Minister demands a vote of confidence but picks apart a particular newspaper and journalists as a whole instead
b) A parliamentary body debates the state of media in the country
c) Politicos who look, walk and talk like they flunked the third grade of elementary school take it upon themselves to count charatcers or seconds devoted to a certain subject and not another, which favours the government (say inflation vs. GDP growth).
d) Pro-government journalists have a one-on-one with the PM (no counter-arguments allowed) or they invite journalists who criticise the government to their talk shows and they try do discredit them (contarty to the unwritten code that a journalist will never attack another journalist as long as they both do their job professionally)
After three years the media and journalists finally took a stand against continous rape by the government (with a not-so-little help of opportunist capitalists who smell a change in power), which is of course suddenly suffering from a bad case of amnesia and basically claims that time started with Danilo Slivnik and Peter Jančič being removed from Delo daily. Nothing is being said about Jančič and Slivnik (the former being a stooge for the latter, both doubling as governmental hench-men) running out half of journalists of Sobotna Priloga (Delo’s most read Saturday supplement), of recalling journalists on foreing posts home just because they didn’t report in line with government’s foreign policy (I didn’t even know we have one!), of the foreign minister boasting that if there is something not printed in the papers, he’ll have it printed (or else…), of articles being rewritten by Jančič to the extent of being unrecognisable to their original authors, etc, etc…
As I said, all of the above makes the pressures exerted by the political left (while it was in power) look like a picnic. Although their achievements are not to be diminished, either. I will refrain from ranting about how FM frequency were distributed and then re-accumulated by friends-of-friends, with the watchdog being as toothless and impotent as a 90-year-old siphylitic patient with Alhzeimer’s – I am, afterall, highly biased on that matter (which don’t mean I’m wrong, but still ;)). Instead, we can remember all the brouhaha about the government of Janez Drnovšek buying a jet plane and the not being entirely truthful (i.e.: they lied) about the price.
But what I’m afraid of is that the soul-searching the left is doing at the moment is only temporary, kind of like “I-said-I’m-sorry” attitude and that nothinh will change, even in the unlikely event of change in the political balance.
So I popose a very simple excercise, which will show whether the left is serious about their newly found love for media freedom. In case they win the election they should:
a) Change the law on RTV Slovenia, radically lowering the number of politically appointed members of both boards (to a max of, say, 25%).
b) State funds must immediately sell any and all remaining shares in all media companies they may still own. And they should sell it exclusively to journalists employed by those media companies.
c) The Law on media should be ammended, re-introducing the clause forbidding media contentration.
d) Forbid operators of future digital radio and television networks from becoming content providers as well.
A rather simple test. Failing to tackle any of these points will allow the present state of politics directly or indirectly pressuring the media to perpetuate indefinitely.