BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission on Thursday condemned Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa’s criticism of a reporter who wrote a piece suggesting that media freedom was under pressure in his country, a member of the European Union.
In a tweet, Jansa accused Politico reporter Lili Bayer of lying in her story entitled “Inside Slovenia’s war on the media”, in which she quoted journalists and watchdogs as saying Jansa was creating a climate of fear in the media.
“Well, @liliebayer was instructed not to tell the truth, so she quoted mainly ‘unknown’ sources from the extreme left and purposely neglected sources with names and integrity,” Jansa tweeted, in English.
Commission Vice President Frans Timmermans responded with a tweet of his own: “Vilifying, threatening or attacking journalists is a direct attack on free media. That is why journalists like @liliebayer deserve our support.”
Senior members of the European Parliament also defended Bayer, including former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt, who accused Jansa of bullying.
Jansa responded with a tweet reading: “And, @guyverhofstadt, we answered all her questions – and @POLITICOEurope ignored all our answers. Who is bullying who?”
Slovenia takes over the rotating six-month EU presidency in July and will be in charge of setting the agenda of EU inter-government meetings and representing the 27-nation bloc in some international forums.
The Commission has already clashed with nationalist governments in Hungary and Poland over curbs on media independence, and has promised specific recommendations on the safety of journalists later this year.
(Reporting by Jan Strupczewski; Editing by Kevin Liffey)