Plan to move Večer news desk to mayor-owned offices sparks protests
Protests were held in Maribor and Ljubljana on 22 November in support of staff at the newspaper Večer, whose management wants to relocate the news desk to a building owned by Maribor Mayor Saša Arsenovič.
Večer, a national newspaper with a focus on Maribor and north-east Slovenia, has had the current offices in the centre of the city since 1962.
However, just before the previous owners sold the newspaper to six companies affiliated with media mogul Martin Odlazek in mid-2021, they also sold the office building where it is based.
The newspaper is now officially headquartered in Ljubljana, from where it covers national stories, but most of its staff remains at its rented old headquarters in Maribor, Slovenia's second largest city.
Concerns about impact on integrity
Večer staff, as well as a number of other journalists and readers who came to express their support, believe the move would undermine the newspaper's editorial independence and credibility.
Večer editor-in-chief Matija Stepišnik urged the management not to go ahead with the plan, which he said would be disastrous for the newspaper. "It would plant irreversible doubt into all journalistic foundations."
Gašper Andrinek, the head of the Slovenian Journalists' Association (DNS), said the decision to move the news desk indicated a complete lack of understanding for journalism, a profession based on integrity.
"Can you imagine a journalist writing about home affairs working out of an office in the government palace? No matter how professional their work, nobody would trust their independence," Andrinek illustrated.
Philosopher and media critic Boris Vezjak also came to support Večer journalists, wondering in his address whether some €30,000 that the move was to create in savings was really the only reason for the decision.
"Is it really that hard to understand that there is a conflict of interests between you and journalists who have to report about your work?" he said, addressing Arsenovič.
Management and mayor see no reason for upset
Arsenovič, who owns a number of buildings in Maribor, does not see any problem about the planned relocation. He argued that it would not change the status of the newspaper in any way.
Galerija Gosposka, his flagship building in the centre of Maribor, he has been letting out for nearly 20 years, he said, adding that he had never entered the offices of the renters uninvited.
"I believe the journalists will keep writing autonomously and independently, but you have to separate capital and management from employees," he said.
Similarly, Miha Klančar, the chief executive of Večer, said a week ago that that "ownership of the leased offices has no influence on the newsroom, which remains completely autonomous and independent".
The management wants to keep the desk "in the city centre, close to the readers, and to accelerate the company's digital development", whereby the expected savings on the lease will be invested in "a better service for the public", he said.
Journalists gather outside RTV Slovenija HQ to support Večer staff against a planned relocation of the newspaper's news desk to offices owned by the Maribor mayor. Photo: Bor Slana/STA
At the same time as the rally was held in Maribor, journalists from other media outlets and Večer readers also gathered in front of the headquarters of public broadcaster RTV Slovenija in Ljubljana to express support for Večer journalists.
More than 900 people have signed a petition against the move as well.