An appeal from the STA staff for immediate resolution of the situation and resumption of financing
Ljubljana, 15 July - An appeal from the Slovenian Press Agency's (STA) staff for immediate resolution of the situation and resuming of financing the STA.
The staff at the Slovenian Press Agency are still awaiting resolution concerning the public financing of the agency, despite assurances by senior government representatives, including the prime minister, given in the presence of top European Union officials that what they have described as "a minor and unnecessary snag" will be finally resolved shortly.
We are increasingly convinced that we will not receive payment for the work we have performed, at least judging by the last "coordinating meetings" with the director of the Government Office for Communication (UKOM) Uroš Urbanija, who, despite promises to the contrary by the authorities, does not appear to be in a rush to fulfil the legal duty of the agency's founder to finance the public service. Instead, he is making funding conditional on him in effect becoming editor, director and supervisor all in one.
The STA bodies representing the staff have been briefed on the meeting between the STA and UKOM held on Tuesday. A press release issued by UKOM after the meeting contains statements that STA participants of the meeting assure us are far from the truth.
The basic premise under which UKOM would review summaries of news items, evaluate their content and arbitrarily determine the public service payment based on that is unacceptable. It constitutes a grave encroachment on our autonomy that the signatories resolutely oppose.
The proposed contractual provision advocated by Mr Urbanija that would give our subscribers the right to republish our content for free for a year is a reflection of their utter misunderstanding of, and disrespectful attitude to, our work. It is not the STA's idea that the agency performs public service AND commercial activities, this is determined in the Slovenian Press Agency Act.
This assumption also ignores the fact that of the roughly EUR 2 million that the STA should receive for the performance of public service this year, UKOM has been promising just EUR 845,000. And instead of transferring this amount in the form of an advance payment as the government decided, it keeps coming up with new conditions to defer the payment for services that we have already provided.
Soon it will be 200 days since the government stopped honouring its public service commitment, despite being bound to do so by the Slovenian Press Agency Act and the 7th anti-coronavirus law. The UKOM director appears to be counting on the agency collapsing before it has had the opportunity to get justice in court.
Some of our staff are starting much-deserved holidays not knowing whether they will still have a job once they return or whether they will be on the dole due to the personal interests and arbitrary vengefulness of a single person.
This one person, either independently or with the support of the government, is trying to upend the STA's business model to deprive our agency of a significant portion of commercial revenue. At the same time, the founder would not contribute any additional financial means, on the contrary, the desire is to reduce public service funding, whereby this same person is deriding the agency by proposing that it secure additional commercial revenue by photographing weddings.
We therefore call on the UKOM director to get down to work and fulfil the government's expectations, or to step down and make way for someone capable of doing that. It is patently clear that Mr Urbanija has no intention of fulfilling the task and ensuring sustainable financing for the STA as required by the law.
Although public pronouncements by government representatives have created the impression that things are being sorted out or have indeed been sorted out already, the public should know that this is not the case and that our very survival hangs in the balance. Come autumn, the self-styled National Press Agency (NTA) may be the only agency reporting to the domestic and international public about events at home and abroad.
The STA staff also expect the judiciary to decide on the enforcement claims filed by the STA in the shortest possible time, of course with due consideration of all procedural terms. The fate of the STA staff and our families hinges on that, as does Slovenia's reputation in the international public.
STA Works Council
Trade Union of STA Journalists