The Slovenia Times

Media dominates agenda of Jourova visit


A visit to Slovenia by Vera Jourova, vice-president of the European Commission, on 1 and 2 March was dominated by debates surrounding media, both the state of the media in Slovenia and, more broadly, the fight against misinformation and disinformation.

Jourova had been among the EU officials who voiced support of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) when it was temporarily defunded by the previous government, a development that was one of the reasons why the Commission has adopted the Media Freedom Act.

Jourova "knows the situation here very well, which is why the Media Freedom Act ... serves as a guide of sorts in deliberations on our legislation and overlaps with our views of media legislation," Culture Minister Asta Vrečko said after talks with the commissioner.

National Assembly Speaker Klakočar Zupančič meanwhile told Jourova that Slovenia would take an active part in the drafting of any legal basis that will "support and protect the independence of journalists ... and prevent political pressure on journalists."

STA financing has been restored and measures adopted by the previous government which restricted STA financing have been reversed. Lately the focus has been on public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, which has been in turmoil for almost a year due to the appointment of several people with very close links to the previous government to key posts, leading to protests and strikes by a large number of journalists.

The situation at RTV Slovenija was discussed as Jourova stressed the importance of strong and independent public service media, and their stable financing.

Amendments to the act governing RTV Slovenija that the current government has adopted with the stated aim of depoliticising the broadcaster are currently being reviewed by the Constitutional Court at the request of the RTV Slovenija management.

Jourova held talks with Constitutional Court president Matej Accetto but she categorically denied having discussed the specific case, saying the case had nor been mentioned "with a single word". "When a case is pending we do not speak about it at all," she said.

"But I understand that the court judgement will bring more light into how public service media will develop further. There is no doubt that Slovenia needs public service media with sustainable and predictable financing and people with the highest possible reputation."

Jourova has faced criticism from Romana Tomc, an MEP from the ranks of the former prime minister's party, who sent a letter to Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warning that the commissioner's visit at a time when the court is deliberating on the case could be construed as "inadmissible political pressure on the court".

The commissioner dismissed this notion saying that whenever she visits a country, she makes an effort to speak to the president of the top court concerning "rule of law, in particular the primacy of European law," a debate she said that was very important for her work.

Jourova did however briefly discuss the Constitutional Court case with Speaker Klakočar Zupančič, who according to Jourova expressed the conviction that the judgement will come soon.

The Commissioner also attended a debate on disinformation and misinformation that also featured President Nataša Pirc Musar and Ukrainian Ambassador to Slovenia Andriy Taran.

She said the flood of Russian propaganda and disinformation, which is part of Russia's hybrid warfare, calls for resolute response, while independent media play a key role. She stressed the role of awareness-raising campaigns and campaigns enabling people to check facts, and that online platforms should invest more in fact checking.

Pirc Musar said she was happy the EU is a leader in IT regulation, and expects the EU's Digital Services Act to improve the situation in social media, where disinformation spreads fastest.


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