Ljubljana – The ZRC SAZU, the Scientific and Research Centre at the Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts, is worried at escalating attacks on the STA, urging by the Government Communication Office (UKOM) to stop threatening and financially draining the news agency. UKOM denied the allegations.
The STA is a public service which promptly, consistently and dedicatedly follows and reports on developments in Slovenia, including science and research, reads the statement in support of the STA.
It stresses that STA reports are released by many media outlets in Slovenia, especially those which cannot afford to hire enough journalists to provide for reporting on “such marginal topics like science”.
The ZRC SAZU says that commercial media treat science as marginal because they do not bring many readers, viewers. listeners or clicks.
This is the reason for which science is particularly dependent on media such as the STA and the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija.
In in the view of ZRC researchers, due to their relatively stable funding, such media ensure reporting on activities which are not very profitable yet key for society.
“If we allow for public media such as the STA and RTV Slovenija to be abolished, we will cause irreparable damage to the Slovenian media landscape, which is already deprived of quality media,” the release reads.
“Science will thus disappear from the media’s agenda moving to specialised portals and niche media. It will itself turn to be treated as a marginal pursuit, or even a hobby, of a handful of weirdos who are passing their time by wasting taxpayer money.”
UKOM director Uroš Urbanija said in a press statement that he was surprised by the allegation it is stepping up its attacks on the STA or financially starving the agency. “Neither is true, UKOM has settled all of its liabilities to the STA in line with last year’s contract,” he said.
While not specifying why the agency has not been paid for the performance of public service this year, he says “funding for the STA has been secured,” which is why messages to employees that the agency will not live to see its 30th anniversary are “unacceptable”.
Overall, he reiterates UKOM’s long standing positions regarding the STA director, including that he persistently refuses to hand over to the government the requested documentation.
He also denied any interference in editorial independence arguing that the government had never encroached upon it and noting that the administrative part of the agency is clearly separated from the editorial part, with any effort to link the two “an attempt at politicising the editorial staff and journalism”.
The statement came after the government last week called on the STA supervisory board to dismiss the agency’s director Bojan Veselinovič for his alleged violation of the agency’s obligations, and as the agency has been waiting for more then 20 days for UKOM to pay the bill for the public service the STA carries out under the law.
The STA reports on science and other research and development topics as part of its regular service and has a special science portal in Slovenian and English. In 2018, the agency’s science journalist Lea Udovč won an award conferred by the Slovenian Journalist Association.