STA, 13 July 2020 - The STA (Slovenska tiskovna agencija) editorial board has expressed concern with the changes planned by the government to Slovenia's media legislation. Changes to three media-related laws would not only change the STA's funding and give the government more influence on management appointments, but also divide the public broadcaster licence fee among other media outlets.
The STA's editorial board says in a statement addressing the public in Slovenia, as well as abroad, that the changes planned to the three main media-related laws are an attempt to push political interests into a field where they have no place.
"Handing appointments back into the hands of the government would be a massive setback for the autonomy and independence of the STA," the editorial board says as regards the changes planned for the 2011 law on the STA.
Currently, the agency's supervisors are appointed by the National Assembly with an absolute majority, and they in turn appoint the general manager through an open call for application.
"This guarantees that a plurality of interests are represented in the process. The proposed changes, however, open the doors to attempts at direct influence on editorial policy at each change of government, destabilising editorial policy.
"It is notable that Slovenia has had six different governments since the Slovenian Press Agency Act took effect in 2011, but the agency has remained stable, following a clearly outlined editorial policy and development course."
The editorial board also says that the legislative changes would constitute a significant interference in the public funding of the STA and in its governance. "The STA would no longer be funded directly from the budget, a source that has come to represent an decreasing share of its total funding, but would receive a part of the RTV Slovenija licence fee."
"The existing legislation ensures full transparency of operations and finances, with the agency's annual business reports having faced no criticism in either chamber of parliament ever since the law took effect," the board notes.
It also expresses concern about "interferences planned in media legislation in general, above all in independent public services, which includes the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija" as regards the changes planned to the acts on RTV Slovenija and on the media in general.
"Subordination of the media to the politicians currently in power ... is a clear cause for alarm in 21st-century Europe, especially considering scenarios that have already played out in other countries."
The STA editorial board also says that the agency had not been informed about the changes nor involved in the process any other way. "Neither was the broader public, while the government decided to limit the public consultation period to only five working days."
The statement also notes that under the changes, the law would no longer state that the agency must not, under any circumstances, be affected by influences and views that would compromise the accuracy and integrity of its reporting.
If the state in its capacity of the owner of the STA and of RTV Slovenija wanted to ensure long-term stability of STA's operation and help other media, it should increase budget funding for the public service, and help other media with fiscal policy measures and solutions put in place in other countries, the statement also says.
In the afternoon, the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) addressed a letter to President Borut Pahor, Prime Minister Janez Janša and Speaker Igor Zorčič, recommending that Slovenia "refrain from the plans to change the STA's governing legal framework," adding that these could have severe consequences for the reputation and the business of the STA.
"The STA has been a member of EANA for many years now, and its independence as an organisation of Slovenia's national news infrastructure has always been undoubted. The now planned changes could alter that perception fundamentally."
Signed by EANA president and CEO of the German press agency DPA Peter Kropsch and EANA Secretary General Alexandru Giboi, the letter also underlines that "independence from any third party influence is a cornerstone of the reputation of the news agency. The degree of independence is strongly related to its acceptance as a source of unbiased news within the international media scene."