Outrage at “censorship” in Slovenia
In the case of the Italian entrepreneur Pierpaolo Cerani the Slovenian judiciary is not abandoning the daily newspaper “Dnevnik”. The Ljubljana District Court dismissed the newspaper’s complaint against a muzzle waiver in the Cerani case at the beginning of September.
The Triestinian entrepreneur had obtained a temporary injunction that provides for draconian penalties if “Dnevnik” were to report doubts about his fair business conduct. Cerani is at the centre of public interest in Slovenia because he has gained control of the important conglomerate “Pivovarna Lasko”, which also owns two of the country’s three most important daily newspapers. “Dnevnik” can only report positively about Cerani, according to the preliminary injunction. If it does not do so, a fine of 50,000 euros is imposed for each article, up to a total amount of 500,000 euros. The court decision was described by the media freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) as “a kind of censorship that is unacceptable to an EU state”.
Justice’s actions worrying
The International Press Institute (IPI) is now also critical of the confirmation of the injunction. IPI Director David Dodge described the actions of the Slovenian judiciary as “worrying”. It gives the plaintiff the opportunity to prevent critical reporting by “Dnevnik” for a long time by lengthening the proceedings. The threatened penalties are also “disproportionate”. The court did not balance the plaintiff’s right to protect his reputation and the public’s right to information in a proper proportion, Dadge criticized.
“Dnevnik” editor-in-chief Ali Zerdin was “bitterly disappointed” by the confirmation of the injunction by the district court. “The biggest problem is the fact that the public has no knowledge of important facts,” he stressed. Zerdin lodged a complaint with the Higher District Court.
“Dnevnik” had reported on Cerani’s connections with former Italian Crown Prince Vittorio Emanuele of Savoy and his involvement in several scandals. The former Bulgarian head of government and former King Simeon (II.) Sakskoburggotski (direct cousin of Vittorio Emanuele) is also said to have been involved in one of these scandals. Another case involved the delivery of medical goods of questionable quality to Eritrea.
Attacks on media freedom
Slovenia has hit the headlines several times in recent months for attacks on media freedom. In the summer of 2007 more than 500 journalists signed a petition directly accusing the then conservative head of government Janez Jansa of restricting media freedom. The outcry was preceded by numerous reports of reprimands, writing bans and an accumulation of personnel changes at the top of the most important Slovenian media. Those media that also elude the informal influence of the state, such as “Dnevnik”, were to be made submissive by an ad boycott of semi-state companies.
The newspapers “Delo” and “Vecer” were in the wake of an agreement between the Jansa camp and the “Pivovarna Lasko” owner Bosko Srot, which had always been denied officially. Srot turned his back on Jansa before the 2008 parliamentary election, which he narrowly lost, and immediately became the target of massive criticism for allegedly acquiring his “Pivovarna Lasko” shares by unfair means. Srot recently stepped down as CEO because the group ran into financial difficulties in the wake of the economic crisis. Observers see the fact that a large share has recently surprisingly been sold to Cerani as a manoeuvre by the toppled CEO to withdraw his assets from creditors.
The Republic of Slovenia is a parliamentary democracy with a 1991 constitution. The holder of the executive power and commander-in-chief of the armed forces is the President of the Republic (since December 2012 Borut Pahor), who is directly elected for five years. Head of government (since March 2013 Alenka Bratušek) is the Prime Minister, who represents the strongest party or coalition. He is elected by Parliament and proposes the members of the Council of Ministers, who are then elected by Parliament.
The legislative body is a two-chamber parliament; the State Assembly (Drzavni Zbor) with 90 deputies, who are elected partly directly, partly by proportional representation every four years. The State Council (Drzavni Svet), with 40 members, has mainly an advisory function; 22 of its members are elected (every five years). Every Slovenian who is at least 18 years old has the right to vote; those who are already working can vote from their 16th birthday. Slovenia is divided into 210 municipalities (Obcine), including eleven urban areas (Mestne Obcine).
Even as part of the Yugoslav Federation, Slovenia was the most economically developed and prosperous country in comparison with the other republics. Since the mid-1990s, the country has also recovered from the consequences of the civil war in neighbouring countries, which severely impaired trade relations, not least due to the disappearance of tourism, which was the country’s main source of foreign exchange income. After independence was declared in 1991, Slovenia sought a free market economy, which led to extensive privatisation and reform. Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and became part of the EU single market. Slovenia was one of the most prosperous EU candidate countries and was the first of the ten new EU member states to introduce the euro on 1 January 2007. Gross domestic product (GDP) contracted by 2.4 % in 2013 (a consequence of the collapse in exports due to the financial and economic crisis in 2008), while unemployment stood at 8.2 % in 2011.
The vast majority of foreign trade is conducted with the other countries of the European Union. Germany is the leading trading partner. The main exports are chemical products, automobiles and automotive parts, machinery and electrical engineering. In industry, which accounts for around 30 % of GDP, electronics and pharmaceuticals are the most important sectors, as are iron and steel production, vehicle construction and mechanical engineering.
More than 40% of the country’s land is used for agriculture, mainly as pasture land for cattle breeding and dairy farming. Horse breeding at the Lipica stud is well known far beyond the borders of Slovenia. The main crops are potatoes, cereals, maize, wine and fruit. The country’s mineral resources include various ores, crude oil, mercury, uranium and lignite. The country’s energy needs are covered by thermal and hydroelectric power plants and a nuclear power plant operated jointly with Croatia. Tourism is an important source of foreign exchange income.
The country’s infrastructure is well developed with around 38,000 km of roads and 1,200 km of railways. There are three international airports (Ljubljana, Maribor, Portoroz). There is a port in Koper on the Adriatic Sea. Currency is the Euro.