Freedom of the Press
Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Political Environment(0 = best, 40 = worst)
Economic Environment(0 = best, 30 = worst)
Slovenia’s constitution and legal system guarantee freedom of speech and of the press. However, the law bars hate speech and incitement to intolerance or violence, and defamation remains a criminal offense that can result in imprisonment. Media outlets for the most part operate without political interference. At times, however, they have faced lawsuits after reporting on controversies involving powerful political figures.
In December 2012, the Ljubljana Higher Court annulled the Ljubljana District Court’s 2011 order that Finnish journalist Magnus Berglund and the Finnish public broadcaster, YLE, pay €15,000 ($19,300) in damages to Janez Janša, Slovenia’s prime minister and the head of the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS). Janša had sued Berglund, YLE, and several other individuals for defamation in 2010 over a 2008 YLE documentary, produced by Berglund, that accused Janša of receiving kickbacks from arms deals between Slovenia and the Finnish defense contractor Patria. Separately, in November 2012, the Ljubljana District Court ordered the newspaper Delo to pay €10,000 ($13,000) in damages and publicly apologize to the SDS for damaging its reputation in a 2009 article. Citing Finnish investigators, the report claimed that the SDS had improperly accepted money from Patria. In July 2012, the same court threw out a libel suit brought by Ljubljana mayor Zoran Janković of the opposition Positive Slovenia party. He had sought €30,000 ($39,000) in damages from the business daily Finance over a series of 2010 articles that had implicated him and members of his family in illicit real-estate transactions.
The 2003 Access to Information of Public Character Act ensures free access to information. The Office of the Information Commissioner, an independent body established in 2005, is tasked with handling freedom of information requests and supervising the protection of personal data. The commissioner is nominated by the president and subject to approval by the National Assembly, Slovenia’s lower house of parliament. The current director enjoys a high level of public trust.
The Mass Media Act of 2006 established the “right of correction,” according to which anyone offended or insulted by information published in the media, even truthful information, can demand a “correction” published in the same space as the offending article. The government and large companies have utilized this law to demand corrections that in some cases have been longer than the original article. The texts hinder editorial independence and journalists’ freedom to publish critical articles. The Ministry of Culture is the main regulatory body for the print media and supervises the implementation of the Mass Media Act. It also handles complaints against the media from the public. Electronic media are regulated by the Post and Electronic Communications Agency. The agency’s responsibilities include monitoring the content of radio and television broadcasts and stimulating competition within the broadcasting industry.
Janša, who had previously served as prime minister from 2004 to 2008, returned to power in 2012 following December 2011 elections. Events since then have signaled the new Janša government’s growing influence over the media. In July, four members of the supervisory board of the public broadcaster, Radio-Television Slovenia (RTV Slovenia), who had been appointed in January 2010 by the previous government were dismissed before the end of their four-year terms, prompting criticism from media advocacy groups. The dismissed members filed a lawsuit alleging that their ouster had been illegal, but Slovenia’s Administrative Court rejected the case in September. Later that month, Janša’s government removed an additional five members from the board, leaving it with just two supervisors out of the usual eleven. In November, Planet TV, a new commercial television station owned by the state-run Telekom Slovenije, made its debut. Critics noted that the launch was contrary to Slovenian law, according to which a telecommunications company cannot own a television station, and claimed that Janša’s administration had established the channel in order to promote progovernment views.
There are very few cases of threats and physical harassment against journalists, and reporters are generally able to cover the news without fear of violence.
A wide variety of media outlets operate in Slovenia. There are eight daily and a number of weekly newspapers; many of the weeklies report on local and regional issues and enjoy significant readership within the communities they cover. The country’s major newspapers are privately owned, while the broadcasting sector includes both public and private stations. RTV Slovenia is required by law to air radio and television broadcasts that cater to the country’s Italian and Hungarian ethnic minorities. The government-operated Slovene Press Agency (STA) publishes news in Slovenian and English and has permanent offices in several European cities as well as in the United States. Internet penetration reached approximately 70 percent of the population in 2012. The government does not restrict access to the internet.
A transition to digital broadcasting has proceeded rapidly, and Slovenia now boasts the second-highest internet protocol television (IPTV) penetration rate in Europe. The digitization of media has resulted in substantial declines in print media readership and revenues, and outlets have sought to cope by experimenting with online pay walls. At the beginning of 2012, a project from Slovakia, called Piano, united eight major Slovenian publishers behind a pay wall. The financial situation of print media was also threatened in late 2012 by a government proposal to raise the value-added tax (VAT) on certain items, including periodicals, from 8.5 to 20 percent. However, the bill was withdrawn from the parliament in November. In a highly criticized move in August, the Janša government announced plans to reduce the public broadcaster’s funding from license fees by 10 percent. The cut was halved to 5 percent after RTV Slovenia publicly campaigned against the move.
Media concentration is high, and ownership of media outlets changes often, making the market unstable and difficult to monitor. Two foreign companies decided to leave the Slovenian broadcasting market in 2012, arguing that it was uncompetitive and inadequately regulated. Newspapers that are critical of the government sometimes face difficulty securing advertisers, and self-censorship is reportedly common among journalists who want to avoid problems with their employers.