The Slovenia Times

Press Freedom Day: Journalists Point to Working Conditions



ZNP points to censorship

The Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) says press freedom has deteriorated in Slovenia over the past 20 years as pressure on journalists keeps rising also due to the economic crisis.

"There are many cases when a journalist is sacked for his or her views, with the media outlet citing business reasons for the move," ZNP president Tino Mamić told the STA before World Press Freedom Day. This opens the doors to self-censorship, reducing the need for external censorship, he said.

Mamić, who heads the right-leaning ZNP, however also gave an example of censorship which he labelled a case befitting the times before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Without explicitly mentioning the media outlet in question, he said a TV station decided against broadcasting a documentary about an opposition leader immediately after the prime minister held a meeting with a representative of the station.

Private broadcaster Planet TV has recently advertised the documentary "Masque of Democracy", but them failed to broadcast it. The film has been reviewed by the daily Delo as "a political film about the greatness and suffering of SDS leader Janez Janša".

Mamić also complained about the executive branch of power interpreting the legislation on the protection of personal data of public office holders "to its own liking, which often hinders the work of many investigative journalists".

DNS draws attention to deteriorating working conditions

The Slovenian Journalists Association (DNS) meanwhile says there any many "responsible and credible journalists" who do quality journalism, successfully controlling centres of power in Slovenia.

However, the older of the two associations wonders "how long the editorial boards will be able to maintain the high standards when journalists are working in increasingly worse conditions".

Since 2008 when the crisis hit, the number of journalists on open-ended contracts has dropped by 200, whereas the number of those self-employed has risen by 100. A third of all journalists are, according to DNS data, in a precarious, underpaid job.

The association underscored that social and legal security is a basic safety mechanism against increasing pressures on media outlets and journalists. It therefore called on media outlets to take responsibility for their reporters and quality journalism.

The DNS partly blames the situation in the Slovenian media market on the political elite, whose efforts for political influence have led to non-transparent and non-strategic media ownership.

Legislation is a problem too

The DNS also points to the media law, which is almost 20 years old, saying that while the Slovenian Culture Ministry, which is in charge of media policy, agrees some provisions are out of date, it has failed to act.

The association believes that modern media legislation must foremost protect independent journalism and the basic right of the public to be informed. "The public interest in the area of mass media, which has been privatised by media outlets, must become the blueprint in drafting a new national and European media policy."

Last week, the DNS joined the European Initiative for Media Pluralism, which aims to collect one million EU citizen signatures to push for a directive which would protect media plurality and harmonise relevant national legislations.

Slovenian journalist on the Reporters without Borders list of heroes

This year, Reporters without Borders compiled a list of 100 "information heroes" from around the world - journalists whose work helps promote freedom.

The Slovenian on the list is freelance investigative journalist Blaž Zgaga, the author of a book about arms trafficking in the Balkans in the 1990s.

The NGO also mentions his role in exposing suspicious deals regarding the Patria defence deal scandal.

Freedom House places Slovenia among "free" countries

While Freedom House said in its latest report that global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade, the US-based NGO places Slovenia among countries where the media are free.

The report classifies countries in three groups in terms of its media environment: free, partly free and not free. Just like the majority of European countries, Slovenia is in the first group, ranking 39th alongside Lithuania and Granada.


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