20 May 2005


EFJ renews call for further debate on public broadcasting reforms

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 19 May 2005 media release by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), an IFJ affiliate:

EFJ Renews Call for Further Debate on PSB Reforms in Slovenia

Today the European Federation of Journalists renewed its call for more time for reflection on a draft law to reform Slovenian public television RTV Slovenia, in a letter sent to the Minister of Culture Vasko Simoniti.

Following a meeting of EFJ General Secretary Aidan White with Slovenia President Janez Drnovsek on 16 May, the EFJ remains convinced that the draft law "is being unnecessarily rushed through the legislative process", that some of the proposals "open the door to undue political influence" and that it requires "further amendment".

The letter, signed jointly by the General Secretary and the President of the EFJ, was an answer to the critics of a previous call from the IFJ.

Moreover, the EFJ discussed the matter with representatives of Slovenian journalists, with senior members of RTVS management, with Slovenian civil society groups, with appropriate experts from the Council of Europe and the European Broadcasting Union.

"After these consultations, we remain convinced that the proposed law should be withdrawn to allow further reflection and discussion", said EFJ President Arne König.

The EFJ identifies three major concerns in relation with the law proposed by the government in early April and due to be adopted through an urgency procedure by the Parliament:

a. The lack of public debate; the rush to legislate without enough public discussion about the possible consequences of change is a dangerous political move;

b. The threats of political influence in editorial affairs; the introduction of a political element into the selection and confirmation of civil society representatives on the supervisory board is a distortion to the principle of no political influence, which Slovenia has pioneered in this region. In addition, the text does not provide a satisfactory description of the supervisory board's duties, leaving an open door to the possibility of direct interference in editorial affairs.

c. The unsatisfactory arrangement for future financing of RTV Slovenia; the law as proposed lacks guarantees on the long-term planning for RTV Slovenia.

The letter of the EFJ also recalls that the RTV Slovenia management responded to the proposed new law with a comprehensive package of ideas, yet two thirds of their recommendations for changes to the law, covering organisational reform, separation of state and public interest, financial strategies, and the economic and political independence of the broadcaster, have been largely ignored.

The EFJ is associating itself with the suggestions of the Council of Europe and the European Broadcasting Union regarding the law. Moreover, the EFJ received the support of the President of the Council of RTV Slovenia, Mr. Janez Kocijancic, as well as of the former President, Mr. Milan Kucan. Both regret that the Minister of Culture used the debate on the draft law to express strongly politicized arguments against Mr. Kocijancic.

"This requires more thought, not least because of limited frequency space in the analogue environment, but also to settle issues of editorial independence and resources", said Arne König. "Nothing will be lost by expanding the discussion, but there is everything to gain, both for democracy and quality broadcasting, in creating a broad consensus for reform that involves all stakeholders."

The EFJ represents over 260,000 journalists in more than 30 countries.


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