The Slovenia Times

Slovenia moves up in World Press Freedom Index

Slovenian media.
Photo: Nebojša Tejić/STA
File photo

Slovenia has climbed four spots in the latest World Press Freedom Index to rank 50th among 180 countries. The country has thus moved up from being in a 'problematic situation' to join countries whose press media situation is judged to be 'satisfactory'.

The report, released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on World Press Freedom Day, shows the situation is 'very bad' in 31 countries, 'difficult' in 42 countries, 'problematic' in 55 countries, 'satisfactory' in 44 and 'good' in 8 countries.

Pavol Szalai, head of the RSF's EU and Balkans desk, told Radio Slovenija that the situation in Slovenia was mixed. On the one hand, the new government, which assumed office last year, put a stop to the previous government's hostility towards journalists and is committed to media freedom, but on the other hand, the pressure exerted on public service media continues, he said.

Spotlight on RTV Slovenija

Touching on the situation at the Slovenian public broadcaster, Szalai pointed out that RTV Slovenija's journalists continue to strike and protest over interference in editorial decisions.

The current government's attempts to make RTV Slovenija more independent have failed, and the head of the Government Communications Office under the previous government has been appointed director of the broadcaster's TV arm, he noted.

Systemic solutions that would improve public media independence have not yet been implemented in Slovenia, Szalai said. Slovenian journalists' safety has improved, but hate speech and online attacks against them remain a problem, he warned.

To highlight the role journalists play in promoting democracy and human rights, their representatives gathered in front of the RTV Slovenija headquarters. They noted the importance of professional standards and of conditions needed to maintain them.

Helena Milinković, head of the broadcaster's trade union confederation, spoke of workforce and financial attrition at RTV Slovenija, punishment through disciplinary procedures and pre-dismissal warnings.

"Censorship, digital harassment and violence, intimidation and even physical violence are the gravest kinds of threats to independent journalism and media freedom" and "all this is being experienced by those at RTV Slovenija as well as by other journalists on a daily basis," she said.

Commenting on Slovenia's ranking, the Slovenian Culture Ministry maintained the progress was mainly because the situation at the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) has normalised after the current government removed the "harmful regulation" on payment per news item which the previous government used to exercise pressure on the agency for almost a year, draining it financially.

While the Slovenian Association of Journalists (DNS), the older and larger of the two journalist associations in the country, supports the current government's efforts to change the governance of RTV Slovenija, the rival Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) said media plurality would be significantly reduced if "the government manages to politically take over RTV Slovenija".

The ZNP has not detected any progress in press freedom in Slovenia since last year. It believes the problem of the Slovenian media is unbalanced reporting as a result of media monopolies associated with the ruling parties such as that of Martin Odlazek.

Norway tops index

The latest World Press Freedom Index's ranking is topped by Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia, where the press freedom situation is judged to be good. Trailing the list at the very bottom are Vietnam, China and North Korea.

Among Slovenia's neighbours, Austria ranks highest, in 29th. Also doing better than Slovenia are Italy, in 41st, and Croatia, in 42nd, while Hungary fares worse, in 72nd.

Europe, particularly the EU, is considered the region where it is easiest for journalists to work, but even there the situation is mixed, the report warns, pointing to several countries, including Greece (107th), which continues to have the EU's lowest ranking due to the authorities' use of spyware against journalists in what is deemed the worst violation of media freedom in the EU last year.

This is the second World Press Freedom Index to have been compiled using a new methodology that takes into account five indicators: political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context and safety.


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