Association calls on STA to keep its end of bargain after funds released
Ljubljana, 15 January - The Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) has welcomed the government releasing the funding of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), while noting that the STA management now needs to keep its end of the bargain by providing the Government Communication Office with data it requires to determine proper financing of the STA.
Commenting on Friday on the government's decision to provide the overdue budget payments to the press agency after getting approval of the European Commission, the ZNP welcomed the dispute having been settled and the STA provided funding.
"What remains open is whether STA director Bojan Veselinovič, by refusing to disclose certain business data to the Government Communication Office (UKOM), is perhaps concealing uneconomical spending of public funds and unduly high payments to himself."
According to the association, the STA cannot deny the government as the sole partner in the STA the right to be informed with the data on the operations of the STA and, consequently, spending of public funds.
"If the STA management has nothing to hide, it will disclose the data without difficulties. Referring to the UKOM not being entitled to these data, as only the government may get them, is a nitpicking formality that has largely contributed to the dispute between the government and the STA management."
The ZNP argues that the UKOM is a government office and as such, a part of the government. After all, the STA did not sign the contract on the financing of public service with the government, but with the UKOM as its constituent part, it added.
The government provisionally approved the release of overdue budget payments to the STA on Thursday as required by the 7th economic stimulus package.
The UKOM said that the release of funds had been cleared based on a message by EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager which "indicates the possibility of a positive European Commission decision regarding the transfer of state aid for the STA" as the government awaits a final decision."
The STA met the development with a relief, while making a renewed appeal to the government to provide financing in 2021 without making it dependent on any further conditions.