International organisations urge end to STA crisis
Vienna, 8 September - A number of international journalism and media freedom organisations have signed a joint statement urging the Slovenian government and the Government Communication Office (UKOM) "to immediately end the economic suffocation of the STA and take steps to ensure sustainable funding before its collapse".
The statement, so far signed by 19 organisations and published on Wednesday on the website of the International Press Institute (IPI), notes that more than 250 days have passed since the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) last received state funding for its public service from the Janez Janša government, which is currently at the helm of the Council of the EU.
The organisations also point out that such funding is guaranteed to the agency under two separate laws.
Calling for an urgent solution to this funding crisis, the organisations highlight that the government "pledged to resolve the issue" as it took over the rotating EU presidency in July.
However, the draft public service agreement for 2021 "included conditions which left the STA's management with a choice between its existence or independence and it was not signed".
The situation has been at an impasse ever since with UKOM refusing to negotiate and top government officials continuing "to try to discredit and undermine the STA on social media".
"Two months on, UKOM's summer pledge to resolve the crisis has proven to be hollow and the STA now faces imminent financial collapse," warn the organisations, pointing out that the agency could become insolvent by the start of October if state funding is not reinstated.
"More than 80 journalists, media workers and other staff would be laid off. A central part of the country's media ecosystem would fall silent and an important pillar of Slovenia's democracy would be dismantled."
Listing the most recent developments in this saga, the statement says that this dispute has been intentionally drawn out by UKOM to force "the agency to submit to greater government control".
Referring to a recent report by the Media Freedom Rapid Response, the organisations also warn that the STA crisis is "part of a wider attack on the independence of public service media in general" in Slovenia.
What the government should provide at the very least is "emergency funding to ensure the STA's immediate survival while negotiations continue".
The statement thus calls on the authorities "to provide guarantees that the STA's funding and independence is ensured in the long-term".
The signatories believe that the EU "cannot stand by as the leading press agency of a member state heading the EU Council presidency is silenced", urging the EU Commission to step up its efforts "to engage with the country's leadership to end the crisis".
The statement has been signed by, among others, IPI, European Alliance of News Agencies, European Federation of Journalists, Reporters Without Borders, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, South East Europe Media Organisation, Association of Slovenian Journalists (DNS), and Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists.