IPI calls on Slovenian government to hold an independent inquiry into allegations of political pressure on the media, expresses support for petition by Slovenian journalists
The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in over 120 countries, and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), have expressed their support for the "Petition Against Censorship and Political Pressures on Journalists in Slovenia", signed by 438 journalists from the major media outlets in Slovenia and sent to the heads of state, prime ministers and parliamentary speakers of all EU member states.
The concerns outlined in the Petition correspond to the issues brought up in an IPI/SEEMO press release of 31 August.
One of the allegations mentioned in the press release was that the Slovenian government is indirectly influencing the media through its exploitation of business relationships with companies that have financial holdings in a range of media organisations. "Business relationships and share holdings should never be used by the government as leverage to induce independent media organisations to publish favourable news stories," IPI Director Johann P. Fritz said at the time.
IPI also shares the concerns expressed in the Petition over the number of instances of censorship exercised on individual journalists who have written articles critical of the government of President Janez Janša.
Slovenia will take over the presidency of the European Union (EU) during the first half of 2008 as the first of the new member states that joined the EU on 1 May 2004. Countries that assume the EU presidency must lead by example. If the principle of editorial independence is breached, it is not only of serious concern for the media, but also for the public who rely on their information. IPI therefore calls on the Slovenian government to hold an independent inquiry into the allegations of political pressure on the media.
Three months remain until Slovenia will assume the presidency of the EU on 1 January 2008. This allows the Slovenian government enough time to set up an independent inquiry and to ensure that the executive branch of government is always held at arm’s length from the media.
If no progress is made in this direction, IPI/SEEMO will be obliged to send a high-level mission of international media representatives to Slovenia at the beginning of 2008 to investigate the situation of the media environment and put pressure on the key decision makers to ensure editorial independence.
We, Slovenian journalists, accuse Prime Minister Janez Janša of restricting media freedom in our country.
Following the elections in 2004, the right-center government began to trade with state shares in large Slovenian companies, which were co-owners of the media in Slovenia. Its changes in capital structure enabled the government to replace the majority of chief executive officers, members of supervisory boards and editors-in-chief in most of the major Slovenian media. Through this process the government has established an informal and influential decision-making pyramid. The new executive officers and editors-in-chief do not respect the autonomy of journalism and they censor journalists' texts which are critical of the authorities.
Interference of the government and the leading coalition party SDS was confirmed by the then State Secretary of the Ministry of Economy Andrijana Starina Kosem on 12 June 2007.
Assisted by parliamentary majority the ruling coalition has also passed a new Law on Radio and Television of Slovenia, which has strengthened state control over the public radio and television in the country.
Censorship in Slovenian media is manifested in many different forms. Firstly, there are cases of substantial corrections of articles without their authors' consent. Secondly, even assigned articles are often left unpublished, usually without any proper justification. Thirdly, there are restrictions on reporting about politically sensitive topics and some opinion makers unfavorable to the government are refused access to certain media. Journalists are being given notice, they are degraded, removed from the working areas they have covered until now, transferred, discriminated against and obstructed.
This protest is also supported by journalists from media institutions which are not under governmental control, journalists writing for foreign media, and by former journalists who have either retired or found employment at some other media institutions due to the unbearable pressures we have experienced.
A letter about censorship and governmental pressures on journalists in Slovenia has been sent to the presidents, the heads of parliaments and the prime ministers of all European Union member states, as well as to a number of non-governmental organizations and media institutions around the world.
On 1 January 2008 Slovenia is taking over the presidency of the European Union. What can be the message to the European citizens if the Union is presided by a country where pressures on journalists are becoming more and more obvious and where an authoritarian type of rule is strengthening, driving out democracy and media freedom? Presidency by such a country could be a worrying signal for the present, but even more disturbing for the future of the European Union.
Ljubljana, 10 September 2007