Ljubljana – Free, plural and independent media are a fundamental ingredient of democracies, Human Rights Ombudsman Peter Svetina said in his World Press Freedom Day message. “Independent media and public services are the basis of democratic societies, so they must not be hostage in the hands of election winners,” he wrote on Monday.
Svetina pointed out that the freedom of expression of thought, freedom of speech and of public appearance is guaranteed by the Slovenian constitution.
The country is thus obligated by law to ensure plural and democratic media and provide budgetary funds for them so that they can implement the public interest.
He condemned pressure journalists are often subjected to when covering sensitive topics, and urged more more permanent and safer forms of employment of journalists to avoid precarisation, which he believes is one of the most burning problems in media.
Svetina also referred to the Constitutional Court’s decision which says that media freedom is a key condition for an efficient democratic process.
Hence the state must refrain from influencing media content and is obliged to provide for the media’s independence in terms of content, organisation and funding.
“This is especially true for public media which are founded by the state,” said Svetina, who considers the STA funding problems inadmissible.
He thus urged the government to resume funding in line with the law without any further delay. But “if it maintains that the current funding arrangement has shortcomings, it should eliminate them in an appropriate manner.”
Svetina believes World Press Freedom Day is also an opportunity to reflect on professional ethics, stressing it is particularly important to have double-checked, credible and true information at a time when one is flooded with information.
The ombudsman moreover highlighted the invaluable role the media play to preserve the Slovenian language and to enhance ethical public discourse.