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World Press Freedom Review
1999 World Press Freedom Review
By Majda Vukelic
One would hardly argue that the Slovenian media have already gone beyond horizons of political and economic propaganda and banal commercialism. But it is also impossible to say that freedom of the press in Slovenia is being threatened or hampered by any centre of political or economic power. Critical observations of the actions of holders of power and social influence depend entirely on the courage, determination and professional responsibility of an individual journalist, and their understanding of the meaning of the freedom of publicly expressed words. In general, journalists are still not persistent enough when it comes to exposing misuses of power, and one can only guess how long this is going to last. What is most worrying at the moment is the absence of professionalism, i.e. the absence of journalistic skill and knowledge that generally prevents a journalists from writing about something which is not true or not verified.
There is, of course, still a clear-cut differentiation between the so-called yellow and serious (national) press in the country. But there is a danger that in the future some media might be seeking a short cut to profit and thus endanger journalistic professionalism by lowering its credibility to very low ethical standards.
Only two years ago Slovenian courts were literally besieged with so-called press-suits against journalists based primarily on allegations of breaking the section of the law which deals with libel. Most of these criminal cases were arranged without state attorneys‘ involvement. These cases were predominantly settled quite easily and very often dismissed in a court of procedure. This could be taken as proof that the Slovenian judiciary has been relatively successful in seeking an equilibrium between freedom of the press on one side and protection of privacy and individual’s dignity on the other.
During the past year the number of these cases tried in criminal courts has been greatly reduced. However, it is quite likely that the number of private (civil) libel suits will increase as those concerned will seek not only moral, but mostly material satisfaction. That the trend is going this way was illustrated last year when a Slovenian politician sued the weekly Mladina for 25 million Tolars (250,000 DM) in compensation for emotional and psychological pains caused by an article published in Mladina. The case was dismissed and is pending appeal.
There is an old Spanish saying that it is better to go to hell than to the media. It also applies to Slovenia.
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