The European Parliament’s Democracy, Rule of Law and Fundamental Rights Monitoring Group summoned Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Janša and other officials for a virtual exchange of views on the media in the country on 5 March.
The group’s head, Dutch MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Renew), confirmed for the STA that invitations had been sent out for 5 March, although she did not name the invitees.
The MEP told local media a few days ago that apart from the prime minister, the country’s culture minister and the director of the Government Communication Office and representatives of the media would be invited for an exchange of views.
She said the officials would be invited to express their views to the group. “For us, it’s not important whether they belong to the right or left. What matters are facts, discussions so that we know what is going on,” she said.
In her explanations to the STA, ‘t Veld noted that her group is monitoring several countries as well as horizontal topics, underscoring that monitoring “is not a one-off event, but rather a process.”
Depending on the findings and the situation, follow-up actions might ensue in the form of a written report to the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), of which her group is part, or a plenary resolution.
“In addition to the hearing, we will use various sources of information to closely follow the situation, while we will also employ the instrument of written follow-up questions and possibly further hearings,” ‘t Veld explained, adding that fact-finding missions are part of their toolkit, although travel is currently not possible.
In the case of Malta and Slovakia, the group has undertaken several missions and ‘t Veld hopes that later this year they can carry out further missions to both countries, as well as to Bulgaria.
The LIBE committee has also undertaken rule of law fact-finding missions to Poland and Hungary.
The group headed by Sophie in ‘t Veld decided to monitor the situation in Slovenia after PM Janša accused in a Twitter post Lili Bayer, the author of the Politico article on the media situation in Slovenia, of being “instructed not to tell the truth.”
Janša’s attack on the journalist drew widespread condemnation, including from the European Commission which said that hatred, threats and personal attacks on journalists are unacceptable.
“What we hear from Slovenia is unfortunate and disturbing,” Finnish Minister for European Affairs Tytti Tuppurainen told Politico, adding: “We expect the future presidency to uphold our common values, media freedom included. Any erosion of this puts the credibility of the Union as a whole in jeopardy.”
Janša’s contentious tweets were also discussed on the Foreign Policy Committee of the Slovenian National Assembly on Wednesday, with Foreign Ministry State Secretary Gašper Dovžan disagreeing with an opposition MP that such tweets were damaging Slovenia’s reputation in the run-up to the country’s presidency of the EU Council in the second half of this year.
Dovžan said that despite what journalists were writing about the situation in Slovenia, the Foreign Ministry was taking care of Slovenia’s reputation. “The developments show there is media freedom in Slovenia and everyone is allowed to express what they think.” /ibna