The Slovenia Times

Conflict about STA financing landing in court


Ljubljana - The suspension of financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) has led to criminal charges being filed by both sides. The STA's in-house trade union has reported the head of the Government Communication Office (UKOM) to the prosecution, while he in turn filed charges against the STA director, the former UKOM head and STA supervisors.

The STA's trade union of journalists reported to the prosecution on Friday UKOM head Uroš Urbanija over abuse of office, overstepping of powers and causing damage to the STA's public service and thus the informing of citizens.

According to the trade union, Urbanija has consciously violated article 3 of the STA act, stipulating that the government was acting on behalf of the STA's founder, which is the state.

By suspending the funding of the STA, the UKOM head has self-willingly and in an unauthorised way interfered with the legal rights of the STA's founder and the government as its representative and in their legal obligation to ensure autonomy and editorial independence and financing of the STA's public service.

Urbanija's "illegal actions have led to severe financial damage; the functioning of the national press agency is in jeopardy, and so is the stability of its operations, social existence and pay of more than 100 regular employees and contract workers ... and their families," the trade union said.

It also condemned the "financial bullying and pressure on a public media" by the UKOM head and called on the government to fulfil its legal obligations for this and next years.

Meanwhile, Urbanija told MPs at today's session of the Culture Committee that UKOM had filed a criminal complaint against STA director Bojan Veselinovič, former UKOM director Kristina Plavšak Krajnc and STA supervisors.

UKOM later said in a press release that the criminal complaint had been filed on suspicion of abuse of office in the case of Plavšak Krajnc, on suspicion of abuse of public funds in the case of Veselinovič, STA's chief supervisor Mladen Terčelj, his deputy Aleksander Igličar, and two members, Jure Brankovič and Jernej Šmajek.

UKOM argues that Plavšak Krajnc abused her office by signing the contract on the public service with the STA on behalf of UKOM as the representative of the STA's founder, for which UKOM had not been authorised.

The contract is also the reason for charges against Veselinovič, who UKOM says signed it knowing he was making a deal with a body that is not authorised to represent the STA's founder.

UKOM blames the supervisors for not exercising due oversight over the contract knowing it was made with a body that is not authorised to represent the STA's founder.

UKOM claims that all those involved used the term "representative of the founder" on purpose to sign the contract with UKOM so that they could draw state funds. "This was obviously done with the desire to avoid oversight by the shareholder," UKOM said.

UKOM suspended the financing of the STA in October, demanding documents which the STA says only the government as the representative of the STA's founder - the state - is entitled to get access to.

The Association of Journalists (DNS) called on the government today to demand that UKOM honour the law and provide funds for the STA.

The call was directed above all to the Democratic Party's (SDS) junior coalition partners - the Modern Centre Party (SMC), New Slovenia (NSi) and the Pensioners' Party (DeSUS) - "because appealing to the biggest government party would be irrelevant", the association said.

The association added that several legal opinions, including by the government's own legal service's, showed that UKOM had no legal ground to withhold funds. The DNS criticised Urbanija for reporting Veselinovič and the agency's supervisory board.

The association was also critical of Culture Minister Vasko Simoniti, who said at the committee session today that there "is no comparison between production of cars and news, a lot of knowledge is needed to make a car".

"Such an insult is unworthy of a culture minister who should defend the media and their autonomy and not just nod at clearly expressed intension of this party for complete disintegration of the free press," the DNS said, referring to the SDS.


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