STA situation peak alarming, says journalists' organisation
Ljubljana, 30 September - Responding to the resignation of the director of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) Bojan Veselinovič, the Slovenian Association of Journalists (DNS) warned on Thursday that the situation at the agency had never before been more alarming. The developments are an unacceptable interference in media freedom, the DNS said.
The organisation described what STA journalists have been experiencing for the past year as an unacceptable interference in media freedom and violence inflicted by the government.
This comes after Veselinovič resigned, saying he refused to participate "in the trampling of journalistic autonomy" or agree to terms that were a form of arm-twisting.
Prior to this, he turned down a draft public service agreement proposed by the Government Communication Office (UKOM), deeming the talks unsuccessful and the agreement damaging to the STA.
It seems that the STA now has only two options: to sign the agreement, which would be detrimental to the agency and could lead to a drop in public service quality and downsizing, or to go bankrupt immediately, said the DNS in a press release.
"But in reality there is one more solution - the only right solution: for the government to finally start honouring its legal obligations and for the STA supervisory board to carry out the procedures for the appointment of a new director, whereby with the STA management must remain the bastion of journalistic autonomy and professional journalistic," the association said.
It also urged those responsible to get serious and do the right thing, highlighting it would notify international authorities and its foreign counterparts of the developments.
The STA is one of the pillars of professional media reporting in Slovenia and should remain so, the DNS said, noting that the potential collapse of the STA would mean journalists losing their jobs as well as a violent interference and shake-up in the wider media environment.
Precisely because of efforts to undermine media freedom in Slovenia a Media Freedom Rapid Response delegation will visit the country next week, the DNS said, adding the fact-finding mission will present the findings on 6 October.
The bodies representing STA staff have also highlighted the urgency of the situation, calling on those responsible to take action by resolving the situation "in full compliance with the law while preserving the agency's institutional autonomy and editorial independence".
Also responding to the developments, the Slovenian Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) said it saw Veselinovič's resignation as an opportunity for UKOM and STA to reach a deal on funding.
The agreement should allow the agency to return to business as usual and raise wages, which have practically not been changed since 2009, the association said.
The ZNP noted it had been often critical of Veselinovič, but also highlighted that the STA funding saga had been going on for too long and benefited no one, neither the agency nor the government.
"The STA, an agency which provides key information on the situation in society and the country, is necessary and, as such, in everyone's interest. But we would like to see the agency's work more closely follow the programme standards and journalist code," the ZNP said in a press release.