At the discussion, the participants highlighted the necessity of changing the media legislation, the insufficient funding of the Slovenian Press Agency and the problematic nature of strategic SLAPP lawsuits that cripple media independence. The revision of the Media Act has already been announced.
At today’s session in the National Assembly, the Culture Committee learned about the report on the state of the rule of law in Slovenia in the field of media, journalism and democracy, which was issued by the European Commission in July this year. Several representatives of the Ministry of Culture participated in the hearing, including the State Secretary Marko Rusjan and advisor to the Minister of Culture Lenart J. Kučič and many invited experts from the field of media who substantiated their opinions during the discussion.
European Commission: progress on improving the situation, some issues remain unresolvedIn the first place, the report emphasizes ensuring the independence and pluralism of the media. In the reaction of the Ministry of Culture to the report at the meeting, the State Secretary said that important steps regarding the protection of the media independence of the public service were taken with the amendment to the Law on Radio Television Slovenia (RTVS), and he announced that the Ministry would shortly also submitted for discussion an amendment to the Act on the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), which will more clearly define the method of financing or the demarcation of the public service and marketing activities of the STA.
Director of STA Igor Kadunc at the same time, he highlighted the insufficient funding of the STA. The estimated amount is 2.3 million euros, which is only 15 percent more than in 2015, he noted. In the light of savings due to floods, he pointed out that linear cuts cannot be required, as not all things in the country are equally important. He is in favor of changes to the Act on STA, which will follow the guidelines of the European Commission, that STA is entitled to public funds because it provides services of general economic importance.
Many calls for the revision of outdated media legislationAccording to Rusjano, a comprehensive revision of the Media Act is underway and should come up for public debate by the end of the year. Many of the participants in the discussion agreed with his emphasis on the complexity of the renovation. He is among them Barbara Rajgelj from the Legal Network for the Protection of Democracy emphasized the necessity of changing the media legislation, as they are daily exposed to the inaction of the inspectorate and other legal remedies. She emphasized that the media must be guaranteed freedom of expression, while also warning that the media often violate the rights of others through their activities.
They also pointed out the necessity of revising the media legislation Marko Milosavljevič from the Ljubljana Faculty of Social Sciences and Sandra Bašić Croatian from the Primorsko Faculty of Humanities. Milosavljevič highlighted the inefficiency of the ministry, the inactivity of the media inspectorate and the passivity of the competition protection agency when it comes to media. He also estimates that the current legislation does not adequately address the issue of hate speech, comments, concentration of ownership and online advertising.
What are SLAPP lawsuits and why are they crippling the media landscape? These SLAPP lawsuits were also touched upon in the discussion. Journalist Primož Cirman from the Uncensored portal, he highlighted the many lawsuits they are facing on the portal. These are strategic lawsuits to demonstrate the power of financially much stronger plaintiffs who are trying to silence a certain media with a flood of lawsuits and who, according to Cirman, represent one of the biggest threats to the media in Slovenia and Europe.
According to his proposal, the courts should be empowered to reject these lawsuits when they recognize them as such and assess that the public interest is at risk. According to the words Peter Pavlin from the Ministry of Justice, it is dangerous to take someone’s chance to sue, but one of the possibilities is that the judiciary would determine the existence of a pattern and decide to dismiss the lawsuits.
The former management of RTV Slovenia also took part in the meetingThe former general director of RTV Slovenia was present at the meeting Andrei Grah Whatmough and former director of Television Slovenia Uroš Urbanija. Grah Whatmough warned that the members of the new council were not following certain statutory duties, while Urbanius pointed out what he considered to be the controversial dismissal of him and Grah Whatmough. Both are confident that they will prove illegalities in court.