EU fears for media freedom in Slovenia as agency chief resigns
BRUSSELS (AP) – The European Union on Thursday expressed concerns over media freedom in Slovenia following the resignation of the head of the country’s only news agency over a new public service contract that would dictate the mode of financing of the STA.
STA director Bojan Veselinovic resigned, saying the draft contract would harm the agency.
“I will never participate in the trampling of journalistic autonomy,” he said in a statement.
The government has not provided any funding to the agency so far this year, according to the European Commission.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, whose country currently holds the rotating EU presidency, has long been under scrutiny for maintaining control over STA. He insists that much of the Slovenian media are biased against him, but he said in July that the issue of funding would be resolved this fall.
“We regret and follow with concern the latest deterioration of the situation,” commission spokesman Christian Wigand told reporters. He said the executive branch of the EU had “repeatedly expressed our grave concerns” about the need for the government to ensure the funding and independence of the STA.
“We urge the Slovenian authorities, the Slovenian government, to take decisive action to stop and reverse the current trend. The developments show, unfortunately once again, the need for European legislation to protect media freedom and pluralism, ”said Wigand.
European Commission Vice-President Vera Jourova wrote last week to Slovenia’s Culture Minister asking him to know how and when the agency would be funded.
“Such a situation presents major risks for media freedom and media pluralism in Slovenia, and therefore in the EU,” she wrote.