End to Slovenian Press Agency’s Funding Crisis Welcomed

By , 13 Nov 2021, 09:44 AM Politics
End to Slovenian Press Agency’s Funding Crisis Welcomed gov.si

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STA, 12 November 2021 - The Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) has welcomed the signing of a contract that ended the financial crisis at the Slovenian Press Agency (Slovenska tiskovna agencija - STA), while raising concerns that the current conditions of the deal could leave the STA in a financially weaker position in the long term as it performs its vital public service.

The MFRR noted in a press release on Friday that the agreement between the new acting director of the STA and the director of the Government Communication Office (Urad vlade za komuniciranje - UKOM) "brings to a close a gruelling 10-month crisis".

During the crisis, the "STA was forced to operate without legally-mandated state funding for 312 days and narrowly avoided bankruptcy," it said, noting that UKOM had been repeatedly appealed to reinstate the financing and the issue raised at the EU level.

"While our organisations welcome the end of the immediate crisis, the issues for the STA are far from over. Ultimately, these payments were always due to the agency under two separate laws," the MFRR said.

It noted that several outstanding issues in the contract needed to be resolved and a new business plan and agreement for 2022 need to be approved.

"Moving forward, based on UKOM's handling of this dispute, we also retain concerns that its new oversight of STA's financial activities could infringe on editorial independence. Observation must not morph into interference."

The MFRR added that the crisis had left the STA "drained psychologically as well as financially", and that, "despite pressures and smears from top government officials", its journalists had continued to work with great professionalism and dignity.

The press release also takes note of the crowdfunding campaign for the STA of the Association of Slovenian Journalists (DNS) and the Slovenian Journalists' Union (SNS) that has raised a total of EUR 385,000 to keep the national press agency afloat.

"However, the unavoidable conclusion is that this funding crisis should never have reached this point. We maintain that this manufactured dispute was driven primarily by an effort by the government to try and exert greater control over the STA."

The statement has been co-signed by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Free Press Unlimited (FPU), International Press Institute (IPI) and OBC Transeuropa.

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