It took Janša 3.0 government less than a month to score its first international embarrassment. Which is quite a feat, considering that the country is in the middle of containing the Covid-19 epidemic. The crux of the matter is a “dispatch” sent by the Slovenian foreign ministry in which they rebuke an alert raised on the Council of Europe media freedom platform.
To cut a long story short, in a pair of tweets PM Janša accused the public broadcaster RTVSLO of running false stories, being overpaid and overstaffed. Various domestic and international journalism organisations raised a stink with the CoE and this required an official government response. The document turned out to be such a fucking train wreck that everyone – including the foreign ministry – started running away from it, pronto.
The dispatch itself (depeša in Slovenian, hence the horrible pun in the title) is weird, to say the least. It bears no official markings, it is neither signed nor dated and the verbiage is horribly undiplomatic, both in style and substance.
It is painfully obvious that the document was not vetted by professionals at the foreign ministry. Rather than a carefully crafted response that would say as little as possible and deflect the attention, the document is a best-of collection of SDS propaganda in their decade-long war on media.
This time around, however, the document was a poorly worded laundry list of every fucking problem the Party has with Slovenian media. It starts with the assertion that most media have their roots in the communist era and then spirals out of control, like a madman who suddenly realises everything’s connected.
At any rate, the text is so batshit crazy that even the authors and the people who OK’d it knew that shit was going to be flying and they wanted to have at least some sort of plausible deniability if things went south.
And south things went.
When outlets in Muddy Hollows picked up on the story, whatever strategy the government may have had on this just fell apart. At first, the line was that the government authored the response and that the foreign ministry took ownership. The media arm of the SDS propaganda machine and the party faithful even tweeted out content to that effect, which Janša then promptly retweeted.
The situation was getting really fucktangular really fast. Junior coalition partners got antsy and wanted to put a daylight between them and the dispatch. Even the SMC suddenly remembered they were a liberal party and went all out in supporting the media, even though party boss Zdravko Počivalšek was a bit butthurt over his portrayal in a satirical newspaper the other day and called for a “quarantine on making fun of Slovenian officials”. Cringe-worthy.
Anyway, with DeSUS, SMC and to an extent even the NSi going wtf? over the dispatch, a massive volte-face took place. Suddenly, no-one knew anything about the document, no-one knew who wrote it and everyone way playing coy.
This, of course, meant that whatever plausible deniability the authors might have had planned as a contingency measure flew right out the window. And when it became obvious that shit was not only flying but was reaching further than anyone thought, people began ducking for cover.
The person left holding the vomit bucket turned out to be Uroš Urbanija, the newly minted boss of UKOM, the government communicators office who went on the record saying that it was his office that penned the text and sent it directly to the Council of Europe and that neither foreign minister Logar nor PM Janša knew anything about it.
Ironically, Urbanija took over UKOM after Miro Petek, its first director under this Janša government stepped down. Allegedly, this was precipitated by a tweet from the account of the official government Covid-19 crisis HQ (now disbanded) in which journalist Blaž Zgaga was defamed as a “psychiatric case who escaped quarantine”.
This, of course, is the other open case Slovenia has with the CoE media freedom platform. How cute is that?
With domestic and international journo organisations screaming, junior coalition partners fuming, and the opposition going apeshit and demanding resignation of foreign minister Logar, the entire operation has not gone according to plan. Provided there was a plan in the first place.
You see, the thing is that the Glorious Leader has it in for the media in general. It’s not just the lack of idolatry on the part of the national broadcaster (excluding some journos). He will pick a fight with anyone who won’t toe the line and continuously defer to him.
For journos in Muddy Hollows, this is pretty much par for the course. If Slovenian media outlets would get a euro for every time Janša has accused them of being “Fake News Media”, shills for the “Deep State” or similar, the industry would flourishing.
Lately, however, the PM is not shying away from having a go at international journalists as well. This particular tweet didn’t go down well.
“Nice house, shame if anything were to happen to it…“
But other than threatening journos left and right, and generally adding to the toxicity of the national debate, the larger game plan here is rather obvious: Despite agreeing not to wade into divisive issues when he struck the coalition deal, Janša and the Party are, predictably, doing precisely that.
The reason for this is two-fold:
First, ever the Leninist, Janša knows that in a revolution every day counts.
This means that he has to move fast. And since the epidemic provides the perfect cover for all kinds of shady shit and authoritarian moves, he’d be crazy not to try and take the opportunity.
Second, however, is plain coalition psychology and is not specific to Janša or the current situation.
Junior coalition parties took a lot of flak for joining his coalition. This goes especially for DeSUS and SMC. If they were to balk merely a month after the new government took over, they would not only be admitting they were wrong to join the party but their respective leaders would probably not make it to summer either.
Therefore, as counter-intuitive as it sounds, they’re more likely to put up with Janša’s shit now than they will be in six months or a year from now. So, don’t expect anyone senior getting the boot on account of this snafu, as embarrassing as it was
In fact, pengovsky would be surprised if this has any sort of repercussions at all. After all, the SDS minions want the public broadcaster defunded and the media in general cowed.
If anything, la dépêche paints a detailed picture of how the Party and The Glorious Leader see the Slovenian landscape. And who, in their view, is the master and servant.