Once More Unto The Referendum Breach, Dear Friends

Apologies for abusing The Bard, but the upcoming referendum votes do have a tinge of Shakespearean drama to it. Or maybe it is the Shakespearean length of this post. Who knows. To quote Hamlet, fuck it. Going to the polls for the third time in as many weeks, and for the fifth time in eight months, is not a regular occurrence in Muddy Hollows.

Shepherd boy with flute symbolises RTVSLO. The fate of the public broadcaster in Slovenia will be determined on a referendum on Sunday.
Shepherd boy with flute, by Zdenko Kalin, symbolising RTVSLO since forever. But for how long? (source)

And yet, this Sunday might prove to be just as crucial as the April parliamentary election was. For those of you living under a rock for the past few months, Slovenians are about vote in three different referendums on Sunday. There is a vote in the Government Act, on the law on elderly care, and the law on RTVSLO, the public broadcaster. A fucking cornucopia of direct democracy if there ever was one. But there is a catch. Because of course there is.

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Apr`es Moi, Le Déluge

News broke this afternoon that Studio City, the iconic RTVSLO programme, long a thorn in the side of soon-to-be-ex PM Janez Janša and his cronies, is to have its host Marcel Štefančič, jr. axed and its format radically altered. This, obviously, was not entirely unexpected.

Marcel Štefančič, host of Studio City, circa 2013.
Studio City and its host Marcel Štefančič, jr., circa 2013 (photo by yours truly)

All the evidence pointed to something like this. Not in the least because the outgoing regime and its recently-installed peons at RTVSLO spent the last couple of months dismantling every single bit of programming that dared look at the government with a critical eye. Studio City was right at the top of that list. However, that it should be done on 3 May, the World Press Freedom Day, is – not to be too direct – sadistic.

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The Siege Of RTVSLO

It may, of course, be pure coincidence, but fact of the matter is that only days into Russian aggression against Ukraine, the government of Slovenian PM Janez Janša began a siege and ultimately an assault on RTV Slovenija (RTVSLO), the country’s public broadcaster.

The building of TV arm of RTV Slovenija (RTVSLO), the nation's public broadcaster.
RTVSLO headquarters (source)

Normally, putting the war in Ukraine and the shit Janša is getting away with side by side would be gratuitous at best. But it is not only that there is a temporal overlap between the two. The Glorious Leader is directly using RTVSLO coverage of war in Ukraine to instigate the latest and most brutal round of undermining and destruction of the public outlet.

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In An About-Face, PM Janša Continues EPPO Shitshow

No sooner than pengovsky thought the madness had abated somewhat, the Janša government went full retard once again. Mere days after it had briefly reconnected with reality and acknowledged the two Slovenian delegated EPPO prosecutors, the administration came up with a draft law that would effectively revoke the nomination and put the government in charge of the process.

PM Janša and justice minister Dikaučič on an EPPO logo.
PM Janša had justice minister Marjan Dikaučič rubberstamp EPPO volte-face

The main takeaway here is, of course, that Janša government is aiming to extinguish prosecutorial independence. The rule of law is for liberal pussies, and all that. But what is really galling is the brazen manner in which the regime of the Glorious Leader floated the idea. Namely, this head-on attack against the rule of law came less than 48 hours after justice minister Marjan Dikaučič survived a no-confidence vote.

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Depeche Mode

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.

Depeche Mode, Greatest Hits. Or something… (source)

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.

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