#WPFD2021: Time to STAnd up for STA and independent journalism in Slovenia
To mark World Press Freedom Day on May 3, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) is supporting its affiliates in Slovenia, the Slovenian Association of Journalists (DNS) and the Union of Slovene Journalists (SNS) in a crowdfunding campaign to support the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), which has had its financing suspended by the government for more than four months now.
The campaign comes after the Slovenian government’s communication office, UKOM, suspended payment for services provided by STA and refused to pay monthly instalments for STA services for October and November 2020. This refusal jeopardises the professional and editorial independence of the national press agency, which has so far been financially sound. The public service is performed by almost ninety employees, who are at risk of losing their jobs in the worst case scenario, a risk they face because they are doing their job professionally and independently. Were that to happen, the media would be left without an extraordinarily important source of verified and credible information about day-to-day events – and that would happen in a year when World Press Freedom Day celebrates information as a public good.
“ To unilaterally decide to stop funding of public service media is irresponsible and we congratulate our affiliates to this excellent campaign, which is a great and urgent way to mobilise the public and get them engaged in the public’s right to know,” said Renate Schroeder, EFJ Director.
“And now that the European Commission confirmed that EU state aid rules are not a reason for the Slovenian government not to pay outstanding liabilities to the STA, we urge them to immediately pave the way for the financing to be reinstated.”
Founded in 1991, the Slovene Press Agency (STA) is the national press agency which covers events at home and worldwide using its own, as well as foreign source. It is governed by the special Act on the Slovenian Press Agency. It entered into force in July 2011 and stipulates that the STA performs a public service by providing ongoing, comprehensive, accurate and unbiased reporting on events in Slovenia and abroad for domestic and foreign audiences, in the Slovenian and English languages. The service is provided by a team of over 80 staff reporters and back-office personnel in the Ljubljana headquarters, and domestic as well as foreign correspondents.
The EFJ together with five leading media freedom organisations warned on March 16 in a letter to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen that the suspension of the STA’s funding appears to be yet another attempt by the administration to starve the agency of resources, undermine its sustainable funding model, and undercut public trust in its journalism
The goal of the campaign is to raise two million euros, roughly the amount of public funds that the STA receives annually for the performance of public service. If every resident of Slovenia contributes one euro, we will have safeguarded the existence of a professional, independent and unbiased public service which the STA has been performing for almost 30 years. The target can be met if every Sovenian citizen donated one euro.
Petra Lesjak Tušek, president of the Slovenian Association of Journalists, said: “Despite being starved of resources by the government, the colleagues at the STA remain strongly committed to professional work, even as their position grows more precarious every day. Journalists who have built their credibility with the help of STA content, essential as it is to our work and the public’s right to be informed, retain a strong commitment as well. “We will not abandon our commitment to unearthing facts and putting them into context, something that the Government appears not to be willing to stand. We are convinced that critical readers, viewers and listeners also remain committed to the expectation that critical journalists will survive in a democratic country, that media freedom will not be curtailed, and that attacks on journalists will not be acceptable in public discourse.”
Alenka Potočnik, president of the Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists, said: “The developments concerning the financing of the STA public service show just how vulnerable media and journalists are. A few years ago the Trade Union of Slovenian Journalists raised its voice in support of staff at private media companies which curtailed labour rights and conducted layoffs in their desire to maximise profits, now we are in a position where the Government exerts pressure on both public service media, the STA and RTV Slovenija. In the case of the STA it has gone as far as suspending public service financing to jeopardise the company’s liquidity, putting at risk the jobs of around 90 employees and the social security of their families. The people deserve a high-quality information service, fast and credible information. Everyone, not just the media and journalists, must therefore stand up for the survival of the STA.”
ABOUT THE CAMPAIGN
The campaign Za obSTAnek will be under way throughout May. You can donate directly via a bank transfer (account number Si56 6100 0002 5727 075) or by sending an SMS from a Slovenian mobile number to 1919 with the keywords STA1 (donate 1 euro) or STA5 (donate 5 euros). All information about the campaign is available at .zaobstanek.si (the English page is under construction and will be available soon).
The campaign is a collaboration between friends of the STA, including the Trade Union of Slovennian Journalists, the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA) and numerous Slovenian media including Dnevnik and Nedeljski Dnevnik, Delo, Večer, Primorske Novice, RTVS, POP TV, Mladina, Žurnal24 and others. The action has been supported by the trade union associations ZSSS, Pergam and KSJS and also by Journalism Chair at the Faculty of Social Sciences.
Media, NGOs, companies and others who wish to become friends of the STA and take an active part in the campaign should write to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive an information package. Join us!
The campaign is designed to foster creativity. You can write your own message of support. Be creative. Your message may make waves.