Ljubljana – Bojan Veselinovič, the director of the STA, resigned on Thursday after turning down a draft public service agreement proposed by the Government Communications Office (UKOM) that he described as damaging for the agency. “I will never participate in the trampling of journalistic autonomy,” he wrote in a statement for the press.
The STA and UKOM have spent months discussing a public service agreement that the government says is needed for the resumption of public financing of the agency, which has been suspended since the beginning of the year.
The STA management says the agreement is not needed since the state has an obligation to fund the agency regardless of whether the agreement is signed or not, as stipulated by two separate laws.
The management nevertheless engaged in talks but “unfortunately, it has turned out that these talks were nothing but a new form of deliberate foot-dragging punctuated by an unending stream of new demands,” Veselinovič says.
“The resolution of the situation that the STA has found itself in, and the fulfilment of the commitments stipulated by law, are clearly incompatible with the political interests of the current government.”
He said the proposed agreement would “violently upend the STA’s successful business model, reducing our commercial activity, revenue and consequently the number of employees,” by making payment conditional on the number of news items and photos published in the public service, as opposed to being a flat monthly transfer as had been the case for years.
“I believe that my withdrawal will create circumstances in which the government’s attitude to the STA will come into sharp focus. At its core, the government’s dispute with the STA has always been about independent media and about the subjugation of the agency.
“If the STA sticks with its demands, it will undoubtedly succeed in court, at which point the government will finally have to settle its debt if it does not do it before,” Veselinovič says.
Mladen Terčelj, the head of the STA supervisory board, said in a statement that he would convene an emergency session of the supervisors to “find a solution for the management and preservation of the company as a going concern”.