STA financing secured in stimulus bill amendment
Ljubljana, 29 December - The National Assembly voted 44:40 on Tuesday in favour of a last-minute amendment to the latest economic stimulus bill that the coalition Modern Centre Party (SMC) tabled to reinstate public financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA).
The amendment stipulates that the STA must get all due financing for its provision of public service for this year paid within 7 days after the entry into force of the stimulus bill.
For next year, it must get funds regardless of whether a new public service contract for the year is signed, as is customary every year.
The amendment was endorsed by the centre-left opposition plus seven of the eight MPs of the coalition SMC.
STA funding was suspended over a month ago after the management repeatedly refused to hand over documents requested by the Government Communication Office (UKOM).
The STA has not been paid for its performance of public service for October and November. The payment for December is not due yet.
According to two separate legal opinions, one by the government's own Office for Legislation, UKOM is not entitled to all the information it has requested.
Some of the documents UKOM requested are seen by the STA as interference in the agency's editorial independence since they have nothing to do with financial operations but refer to STA content production or contracts that have nothing to do with the public service.
The author of the amendment, SMC deputy group leader Janja Sluga, said the party decided for the amendment "because of UKOM's conduct and all the legal opinions, and because we are of the opinion that public service should be financed and that UKOM simply does not have the right to demand everything it demands of the STA".
Parliamentary Speaker Igor Zorčič, another senior member of the SMC, said that the STA situation needed to be tackled at the legislative level and that the government's efforts so far had been insufficient.
He added that if there were any disagreements, for example regarding the STA's business plan, they should be resolved other than by cutting funds "and starving such an institution".
Prime Minister Janez Janša expressed opposition to the move on Twitter, used the hashtag #Zimbabwe and labelling the amendment as "a pinnacle of the rule of law".