Varuh ДЌlovekovih pravic

The Ombudsman Svetina's response to the open letter of the Director-General of Radio and Television Slovenia (RTV Slovenija)

Today, on 31 August 2022, the Ombudsman Peter Svetina responded to the public appeal by the Radio and Television Slovenia (RTV Slovenija) Director-General, Andrej Grah Whatmough. He said that even though the freedom of expression is indeed a democratic value, it is limited by other human rights and freedoms and/or the rights of others. "That is why concern for the ethics of public speech and respect for human dignity has always been at the heart of the efforts of the institution that I head. I often use my public appearances, direct contacts with decision-makers and other communication to warn about the problematic growth of unacceptable communication and action practices, such as threats, humiliation, insulting, getting even, harrassing and the like.

In accordance with the powers conferred on us by the Constitution of the Republic of Slovenia and the Human Rights Ombudsman Act, my colleagues and I have been drawing attention to irregularities and violations of rights inflicted on people by state authorities, local community bodies and holders of public authority. Particular attention is being paid to groups that do not have the opportunity to defend themselves against hostilities — that is, those groups of persons who are neglected, marginalised or otherwise vulnerable. In such cases, I call on the competent authorities to take immediate action.

Moreover, as the Ombudsman, I often draw attention to the importance of decency, not only in public discourse, but in all areas of our lives and work. I believe that decent communication and conduct that does not interfere with other people’s dignity and does not violate their rights is a reflection of a society's maturity, openness and ethics. We must be aware that all our public statements should be cultivated, regardless of their sharpness and outspokenness.

Of course, (public) calls and warnings are not enough to raise the level of decent communication. Each of us must be fully aware of the power of our words, as well as of the power of peace, the power of war, the power of respect, encouragement, contempt or hatred. It is therefore our responsibility to do everything in our power, to act by example and make sure that all our public statements are civil, regardless of their sharpness and outspokenness. In accordance with the Slovenian legal system, all those who feel that their mental integrity has been severely damaged in such cases have certain options within the framework of both civil and criminal legal protection.

The society's vigilance over unacceptable communication practices and measures taken accordance with the legal system set up a clear dividing line between acceptable and unacceptable ways of communication that characterise the action and thinking of the entire society."