In Slovenia, World Press Freedom Day focuses on STA

Ljubljana – World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on Monday, was dedicated to the situation at the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) as a fundraising campaign in support of the STA officially kicked off.

The campaign comes after the government suspended financing of the agency. It has been organised by the Association of Slovenian Journalists and the Trade Union of Journalists.

“We are worried about this whole attack on public service that is currently the most evident in the case of the STA, because we can expect RTV Slovenija to be probably next, at least in the sense of control and government attempts at supervising it,” says Petra Lesjak Tušek, the head of the association.

Media are always very intertwined with social developments. Being the key institutions of public communication, they are also linked to political life, according to the head of the journalism department at the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences, Jernej Amon Prodnik.

“The battle for the freedom of speech and communication rights has been long and history teaches us that no fight is ever won for good,” he said.

But he thinks “we have to be careful and go beyond the narrow understanding of press freedom which is defined simply as the rights of the media owner to do what ever they want with their property”.

Journalists are not subjected only to political pressure. Owners often see media as a tool for achieving their own political and economic interests. “We will have to seriously think about how to preserve journalism as a critical and supervisory institution in our society.”

Autocratic aspirations, which can be seen in Slovenia and internationally recently, thus have an expectedly negative impact on the media, Amon Prodnik said.

“An authoritative mind does not acknowledge the right to existence to institutions that do not take orders. In this mindset journalists must be obedient servants or they should be discredited, stopped, destroyed.”

Amon Prodnik thinks the Covid-19 pandemic has been all too often used as an excuse for curtailing civil liberties and rights in all fields not just in the media.

A recently published annual report by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows that many governments around the globe have used the pandemic to increase repression, and journalism has been blocked in more than 130 countries.

However, journalists have been playing an important part during the epidemic, providing fast, efficient and high-quality information, Lesjak Tušek said. The work has been challenging, and entailed a lot of adjusting and flexibility, she added.

“I think trust in traditional media has increased for a reason, which some trust surveys show. Before it seemed that social networks are gaining ground, undermining the classic media, now it has transpired that media still have substantial power and are extremely important, because credible information needs to be separated from a lot of fake news.”

The RSF report also pointed to the “dangerous path for press freedom” in Slovenia, which lost four spots to rank 36th among 180 countries in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Meanwhile, the Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) believes that Slovenian media landscape has seen little change in recent years. There seems to be media pluralism in Slovenia, which allows for different media to be set up, but in fact the media that favour the left political bloc are dominant, the ZNP said.

According to the association, the left-leaning media outlets are very critical of the right-leaning politicians while they are ready to overlook many things when it comes to left-leaning politicians.

“We believe the government, which does not even have influence on any major media outlets, is not the one who is undermining democracy in this country, it is the fragmented, twisted picture that the mainstream media are communicating to the public,” the ZNP said.