Protesters and police are seen after demonstrators broke into the headquarters of public broadcaster RTV Slovenija in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on September 3, 2021. ( Žjeći)

Protesters against Slovenian COVID-19 response and vaccination storm headquarters of RTVS broadcaster

Berlin, September 9, 2021 — Slovenian authorities must thoroughly investigate demonstrators’ storming of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija (RTVS) and hold those responsible to account, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

Starting around 8:30 p.m. on September 3, about 20 people demonstrating against the country’s COVID-19 response and vaccination program broke into the broadcaster’s headquarters in Ljubljana, the capital, according to a report by the outlet and Manica Janežič Ambrožič, editor-in-chief of information programming at the broadcaster, who was at the office during the break-in and spoke to CPJ in a phone interview.

Five or six protesters broke through the office’s security area, and then 12 to 15 demonstrators joined them, according to those sources. The protesters, none of whom wore protective masks, shouted complaints about RTVS’ coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, demanded airtime for their views, and tried to enter offices, studios, and the RTVS newsroom to disrupt the broadcaster’s 10 p.m. news program, according to the RTVS report and Ambrožič.

Riot police officers removed the demonstrators after about an hour, and no members of RTVS were injured during the incident, Ambrožič said.

“Journalists at the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija must be able to report on the COVID-19 pandemic and other newsworthy events without fear, and authorities need to ensure that those who threaten and harass members of the press are held to account,” said Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, in New York. “Slovenian authorities must thoroughly investigate the recent break-in at RTVS; if the perpetrators are able to avoid consequences for their actions, such attacks are likely to continue.”

In a statement, RTVS condemned the incident and called the break-in “not only an attack on our institution, but also on free and independent journalistic work.”

Ambrožič told CPJ that the protesters have demonstrated outside RTVS’ headquarters since May, and have occasionally insulted, harassed, and filmed staff members coming in and out of the building.

“We have informed the police several times about the risks of these protesters outside our headquarters, but police did not intervene,” she said. “It was pure luck that this time no one was injured.”

Police in Ljubljana have opened an investigation into the incident, according to the report by RTVS. CPJ emailed the police for comment, but did not immediately receive any reply.