A climate of hostility toward journalists fostered by Prime Minister Janez Janša has led to physical assaults and online attacks. Although the legal framework protecting press freedom remains strong, the media are subject to political pressure and strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP).
The Slovenian media market may be small, but it is diverse. The broadcast sector includes the influential RTV Slovenija as well as private stations such as POP TV. Online papers include traditional titles such as Delo and Vecer, as well as newer sites including Necenzurirano.si. There are few media outlets directly controlled by a political party.
Even though publicly owned media had been subject to political pressure in the past, it has intensified since Prime Minister Janša’s return to power in 2020. He habitually insults journalists he considers overly critical. The government arbitrarily suspended funding for the national news agency STA for several months and appointed political allies to the leadership of RTV Slovenija and the regulatory agencies that oversee it.
Press freedom is protected by a solid legal framework. However, defamation remains a criminal offence. This allows politicians to launch muzzling legal actions (SLAPPs) against media. Some outlets have also been hit by judicial pressure to disclose sources. During the Covid-19 pandemic, journalists critical of the government have called attention to discrimination in access to public information.
While private advertising and content monetisation represent a major share of media revenue, their funding is weakened by the opaque allocation of government advertising. In addition, media outlets controlled by those close to the Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) – Prime Minister Janez Janša's party – have benefitted from investment from Hungarian oligarchs loyal to Viktor Orbán. The lack of transparency in media ownership and a legacy of weakly regulated privatisation threaten the independence of some media organisations.
Journalists who have investigated corruption or management of the pandemic have been subject to online harassment from the prime minister’s supporters. Women journalists have been threatened especially violently. On the other hand, citizens have shown solidarity with journalists by contributing massively to a crowdfunding initiative organised by STA after the government suspended its financing.
In a climate of political polarisation, accentuated by the prime minister’s aggressive rhetoric, many journalists, whether critical of the government or not, have been insulted or assaulted during demonstrations over the past two years.