Robert Boteri, the Creative director of the Mladina magazine in Slovenia, has been for decades a part of this cult magazine, which in former Yugoslavia was renowned for its avant-garde content, most often with controversial subjects. In April this year, there was a diplomatic incident when Mladina published a front cover with a caricature of Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban with the arm raised in a Nazi salute, surrounded by minor figures of Slovenian right-wing politicians, among which is Janez Jansha. Mladina explained that the front page is a result of Orban’s interference in the Slovenian media scene by purchasing several media outlets owned by people that are part of Jansha’s political party.
In the interview for Meta.mk, Boteri reveals that one of the “big” media news in Slovenia was the escape of the former Macedonian Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski in Hungary, that nationalistic websites have been spreading false news and hate speech, while the judges do not dare to sentence anyone in the name of freedom of speech and very often there is change of ownership of websites for the purpose of discrediting businessmen and politicians.
What is the main focus of the false news in Slovenia?
– Lately, most of the disinformation was related to the migrant crisis. There was information, especially in the nationalistic websites, with negative comments which were all directed at presenting the migrants as criminals. The other thing is the aimed discreditation of certain politicians and businessmen, when certain websites were paid off in order to publish a certain scandal. During the process, they are handed over certain documents, the website publishes them and the affair begins. In the end, it is easy to see that it was done for a certain purpose.
-Hysterically! It is always hysterical. If you publish a document in the morning which serves to back your claim that someone knows someone and then during the day the story is being built and in the evening comes a rebuttal that it is not true, as in Slovenia everyone knows everyone. But, at the end of the day, no one knows anything. There was information that migrants have entered a zoo in Germany and have eaten a goat. The new had one million clicks. Then, information arrived that this city doesn’t have a zoo at all nor goats, that this incident never happened, and afterwards this news piece had hundred times less clicks.
Who is publishing this news most of the time?
– What is especially frightening is that someone does these things for profit. Because lot of clicks mean adverts and a lot of money. It is not done because of conviction or ideology, but for money. That’s what the online media are.
Are there any regulations against the spread of false news?
-We have only one media inspector, who is responsible for the country and it is not possible for him to cover everything. Therefore, there are only talks about efforts that are made in order to condemn the hate speech on the internet, but no one in Slovenia has been convicted, since, in the end, the conclusion is that these were words that were written somewhere and “we cannot go back”, as it was in former Yugoslavia and that by acting in such manner we shall be violating the freedom of speech. Therefore, in a way, it is allowed even to threaten someone, a group, a certain nationality, and all of that can be kept hidden behind the freedom of speech.
Is there a law in Slovenia that is regulating hate speech?
– We have a law, but the judiciary has an opinion that if you cannot establish a direct link between the written word and the criminal act, that it is not a subject of persecution. That means that you say: “I would put the migrants up against the wall and shoot them” the court will not persecute you because it will claim that you have just said that and that you don’t have a gun to carry that out i.e. it is not a serious enough crime to press charges.
What is the stance of the media associations?
– The media associations are in a state of crisis, because they don’t know with whom they should deal with. The members of the associations are journalists coming from printed media while the journalists who write false news are not members of the associations. There are even tabloid media who don’t even recognize the journalist boards of codices or anything… Simply put, everything is dirty.
Is Macedonia mentioned in the Slovenian media?
–Certainly, there are such articles. People read a lot about the fake pages in the benefit of Trump and the false news they contained and these were most present in the Slovenian media scene. When the name was changed and when your former prime minister fled the country to Orban. We even had an interview with a person who explained how these intelligence data are used for political goals.
There is a lot more news about Macedonia compared to Albania, Kosovo or Montenegro, In the past, Mladina even had a front cover devoted to Macedonia during the time of the conflict for water between the citizens of Vevchani and Oktisi. That was a major subject.
And what is the image of Macedonia, which aspires for EU membership?
– I will tell you this. We certainly support you for joining the European Union, but be careful, because the problems will start at the moment when you join the EU. All of these previous problems are like elementary school and when you join the EU, that’s when bigger problems will start. For now, you are a sovereign country and you decide whether you will accept the new name or not. When you join the EU, you will not be able to decide about certain things and that will appear strange to you.