EU commission condemns Slovenia PM for insulting journalists

BRUSSELS — The European Union’s executive arm on Thursday condemned Slovenia’s right-wing prime minister for a series of aggressive comments about journalists.

The EU comment comes as Reporters Without Borders has for months raised concerns about Prime Minister Janez Janša, whom it says has waged a “hate campaign” against critical journalists as he seeks to tighten control over public media.

Janša, a nationalist politician with close links to hardline Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, is accused by activists and opposition parties at home of eroding democratic norms. He is also known for inflammatory tweets against journalists and often accuses them of left-wing bias.

His comments about journalists come amid broader concerns about media freedom and plurality across much of central Europe, mostly notably in Hungary, Poland and Bulgaria.

Eric Mamer, the chief spokesman for the European Commission, said the EU “does not accept and condemns the insulting remarks towards journalists, including in this case.”

In its rule of law report last year, the EU’s executive arm noted that online harassment and threats against journalists are frequent in Slovenia, and are rarely punished by the justice system.

Reporters Without Borders has urged the EU to remind Janša that press freedom is a key principle of the 27-nation bloc.

Asked whether the commission was planning to take sanctions against the Slovenian government, Mamer said the commission is not entitled to launch infringement procedures against member states on the basis of insults or tweets.

During the U.S. elections, Janša came into focus when he openly backed former President Donald Trump and congratulated him before the vote count was finished.

Janša, who came to power last March after a previous, liberal prime minister stepped down, is also known for his staunchly anti-immigrant views.

Slovenia is due to take over the EU’s rotating six-month presidency in July.