The Slovenia Times

Journalist organisations decry govt PR strategy as censorship


Ljubljana - The Slovenian Journalists' Association (DNS) and the Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists (SNS) have come out strongly against what they see as censorship following media reports that some government officials and advisers failed to get clearance from the Government Communication Office (UKOM) to appear on news shows. UKOM rejected the claims.

The SNS said that by "limiting cooperation of representatives of the government and various public institutions with certain journalists and media", UKOM was "trying to control content in the media and avoid reporting on different opinions and criticism of the government's work".

Meanwhile, the DNS said UKOM could not tailor media content. "Centralised government communication, censorship of own functionaries and restricting journalists' access to information are the features of autocratic and undemocratic systems which do not respect freedom of speech," reads their release.

The DNS said the media were in the service of the public to keep them informed about topics of importance to society, which was "especially important during an epidemic when the public needs the broadest possible relevant information".

"Any planned avoidance of journalist questions that those in power assess beforehand as unfavourable, is tantamount to suspending journalists and a threat to their core job - to control the government's work".

The SNS urged the government to allow journalists unselected access to information at its news conferences and to prevent its communication service from overstepping its powers by prohibiting government officials from appearing for certain media.

"We are also calling on the government not to hinder access to relevant officials from independent institutions that do not fall under the government or individual ministries such as the National Institute of Public Health, hospitals and other institutions vital in the fight against Covid-19 epidemic," said the SNS.

The response comes after TV Slovenija reported that Bojana Beović, the government's chief Covid-19 adviser, did not get the clearance to appear on the late night news show Odmevi on Wednesday to comment on the confusion about false positive results of rapid antigen tests.

UKOM reportedly also did not clear Education Minister Simona Kustec, Health Ministry officials and Milan Krek, director of the National Institute of Public Health to appear on a news show on the commercial TV channel Kanal A.

UKOM denied the allegations of censorship, saying it was coordinating appearances by government officials and representatives of the Covid-19 advisory group, who answer journalists' questions at daily government press briefings.

It noted that explanations about rapid tests were provided by three experts at Wednesday's briefing and at the press conference on Thursday afternoon Prime Minister Janez Janša and Deputy Prime Ministers Matej Tonin and Zdravko Počivalšek talked about the latest coronavirus measures.

The government has been communicating its decisions and measures to the public in a planned, comprehensive and up-to-date fashion, through all its communication channels, UKOM said, listing news conferences, social networks, awareness raising campaigns and press releases, among others.

UKOM also noted that the government had set up a coronavirus call centre where answers were provided on a daily basis to 1,000 callers from home and abroad.

It further noted that during the previous government, UKOM organised 57 conferences between 13 September 2018 and 13 March 2020, while it has organised 234 since the Janez Janša government assumed office on 13 March 2020.


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