Freedom of the Press
Slovenia’s constitution and legal system guarantee freedom of the press, and the media for the most part operates free of political interference. At times, however, press outlets are punished or threatened for reporting on controversies and corruption surrounding powerful political figures and parties.
Articles 170 and 171 of the Slovenian Criminal Code, on defamation and injurious accusation, have often been invoked against journalists who published damaging claims about political figures. Shortly before the 2008 elections, Finnish public broadcaster YLE aired a documentary accusing Prime Minister Janez Janša of receiving kickbacks from arms deals between Slovenia and Finnish defense contractor Patria. In response, the Slovenian Foreign Ministry sent two communiqués to the Finnish government protesting the documentary and demanding a clarification. In July 2009, Slovenian prosecutors charged Magnus Berglund, the Finnish journalist responsible for the documentary, with defamation under the aforementioned article 171, requesting a maximum six-month jail sentence. In January 2010, Janša—no longer prime minister but still head of the Slovenian Decocratic Party (SDS)—filed a €1.5 million ($2.15 million) damage claim in a Slovenian district court against YLE, Berglund, and several other individuals for offensive allegations. However, Janša was charged in August with accepting bribes in the Patria case.
The Mass Media Act of 2006 established the “right of correction,” according to which anybody offended or insulted by information published by the media, even truthful information, can demand a “correction” published in the same space as the offending article. The government, as well as large companies, has utilized this law to demand that newspapers print “corrections” that may be longer than the original article to state their defense. These “corrections” hinder editorial independence and journalists’ freedom to publish critical articles. The Ministry for Culture is the main regulatory body of the print media and supervises the implementation of the Mass Media Act. The ministry also handles complaints against the media from the public. Electronic communications, as well as radio and television programs, are regulated by the Post and Electronic Communications Agency of the Republic of Slovenia. The agency’s responsibilities include monitoring the content of broadcasting programs and stimulating competition within the broadcasting industry. The Access to Information of Public Character Act was established in 2003 and ensures free access to information.
There are very few cases of threats and physical harassment against journalists, and journalists are generally able to cover the news freely. However, in October 2010, Jaka Elikan, a reporter for the Slovenian business daily Finance, reported that he had been threatened with death by Jure Jankovic, the son of the mayor of Ljubljana. Elikan had been investigating Electa, a company owned by the younger Jankovic.
The print media, including eight daily newspapers, reach 89 percent of the population, and the radio and television markets are saturated. There is only one local press agency, the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), which was independent when established in 1991 but is now owned by the prime minister’s office. Media concentration is high and ownership of media outlets changes often, making the market unstable and difficult to monitor. Newspapers critical of the government sometimes face difficulty securing advertisers, and there have been reports that self-censorship is common among journalists who want to avoid problems with their employers. In December 2010, a government-sponsored referendum on the state broadcaster, RTV Slovenia, was rejected by more than 72 percent of those who turned out in a national referendum. The government had argued that the proposal would reduce political interference with the broadcaster, but opposition parties argued that it would have the opposite effect, and that it would make it easier to ultimately privatize RTV. Approximately 70 percent of Slovenians had access to the internet in 2010, and there were no reports of government attempts to restrict internet access during the year.