Debate calls for immediate changes to public broadcaster law

Ljubljana – Representatives of the informal Constitutional Arch Coalition (KUL) and the Freedom Movement held a debate on Tuesday that called for total withdrawal of politics from the media. They agreed that the first step after the election should be changes to the act on RTV Slovenija so that the “public broadcaster becomes public again”.

The round table debate on political interference in the public media and the importance independent and free media featured Lidija Divjak Mirnik (Marjan Šarec List), Marko Koprivc (Social Democrats), Sašo Slaček Brlek (Left), Marko Bandelli (Alenka Bratušek Party) and Mojca Šetinc Pašek (Freedom Movement).

Representatives of the parties that last month issued a joint protest statement against attacks on journalists and the subjugation of the public broadcaster again announced today changes to the RTV Slovenija act immediately after the election.

Reform of the public broadcaster would be implemented in two stages – the structure of programming council and the procedure for appointing its members would be changed in the first stage.

The parties that count on forming a coalition after the election are also thinking about merging the supervisory board and programming council into one body, and introducing a collective administrative body instead of the director general.

Divjak Mirnik noted that a proposal under which parliament would appoint only five out of the 29 programming council members, with civil society and experts appointing their representatives among themselves, had already been unsuccessfully filed during the current term.

She finds it “bizarre” that parliament confirms “representatives of civil society who are actually not”, as “they are only implementers of policies appointed for a specific purpose, and they don’t hide it.”

Koprivc said that the goal was to “take Slovenia back on the right track” in cooperation with civil society, and accused the ruling Democrats (SDS) of trying to subjugate all subsystems of society, including the media as a key one.

Šetinc Pašek said that democracy was being directly threatened by the current government, while noting that the free and independent media were the central pillar of democracy as they constantly put the authorities in front of a mirror.

She said Slovenia had seen severe attacks on journalists in the last two years, including the suspension of financing of the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) and changes to the programme scheme at RTV Slovenija.

Šetinc Pašek, a journalist with RTV Slovenija herself, added that the Freedom Movement advocated an “end to the pogrom against the media and giving the media back to the public”.

Slaček Brlek labelled the events in the media in the last two years as “a severe excess” and noted challenges such as ownership concentration and lack of relevant control, covert party propaganda and precarious forms of work of journalists.

While calling for the free and independent media, Bandelli noted the interference of politics in editorial policy, abolition of television shows and changes in the programme plan of RTV Slovenija.