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World Press Freedom Review
On 5 March, the editorial independence and existence of Primorske novice was seriously threatened. According to the Slovene Association of Journalists, the appointment of Vesna Humar as acting editor-in-chief, who then went on to carry out some disputed changes to the newspapers personnel, was a violation of internal procedure. Humar was apparently appointed without the approval of the editorial board, a standard step at the publication. In addition, journalists’ livelihood’s had been threatened for some time through cost-cuts: The Primorske novice management (as at many other media outlets) had been avoiding the stipulations of labour legislation, and, even though they should have offered regular employment, had been directing many journalists into registering as freelancers. Furthermore, even these freelance agreements had come under threat. A series of contract terminations followed, in spite of the fact that the affected journalists had been working for Primorske novice for many years.
On 20 April, the European Federation of Journalists, the Austrian Trade Union of Journalists, the Croatian Journalists’ Association, the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists, the Slovene Association of Journalists, the Slovenian Union of Journalists and the Foreign Correspondents Club of Croatia expressed serious concern over the premature recall of two foreign correspondents of the Slovene daily Delo, namely Matija Grah, the Vienna correspondent, and Rok Kajzer, their correspondent in Zagreb. The management also began procedures to cancel the journalists’ contracts, citing "incapacity" as the reason.
In their commentaries and opinion articles, both correspondents represented opinions that were frequently different from the official viewpoints of the Slovene foreign ministry. Although arguments for the recall of the journalists centred on negative evaluations of their work, just a day before the recall the public received information that the foreign news editor had been pushed into giving the reporters bad evaluations by the management of Delo.
On 18 May, Peter Kolšek, president of the Executive Committee of Journalists’ Working Group at Delo, and Mija Repovž, president of the Executive Committee of Delo’s Union of Journalists, received a written warning. A termination of their working contracts was not ruled out.
Danilo Slivnik, president of Delo’s management board, claimed that a protest statement that the journalists’ organisations issued on April 20 criticising the management’s stance towards Grah and Kajzer was to blame for the difficulties the two reporters were now facing.
According to Slivnik, the protest reflected unfavourably on Delo’s management and editor-in-chief, damaged the moral reputation of the publishing house and the newspaper, and harmed the company financially. The signatories of the protest had therefore allegedly violated Article 35 of the Employment Relations Act, which states that employees should restrain themselves from all actions that damage the company either financially or morally, or that could harm its business interests.
In August, IPI and its affiliate SEEMO expressed concern at possible political pressure on the Slovenian media. One of these concerns centred on rumoured government exploitation of business relationships with companies that have financial holdings in a range of media organisations.
According to information provided to IPI and SEEMO, there appeared to be a growing number of instances where journalists critical of the current government claimed to be experiencing pressures that they hadn’t faced before, ranging from the non-publication of commissioned articles to unexpected dismissals. To quote one example, respected Middle East correspondent for the Delo, Barbara Surk, felt forced to leave the newspaper after having her salary reviewed and reduced to a level that was unrealistically low. Problems were also experienced at other periodicals, such as the daily Vecer, where journalists began to keep what they termed a "bunker" of government critical articles that their editor’s declined to publish, and at the weekly news magazine Mladina, reports surfaced of sudden cuts in advertising from state-run companies.
The growing problems in the Slovenian media environment came to international attention with the publicising of the so-called "Petition Against Censorship and Political Pressures on Journalists in Slovenia". Signed by over 430 domestic journalists, the petition was sent to the heads of state, prime ministers and parliamentary speakers of all EU member states. Following the petition, IPI sent a fact-finding mission to the Slovenian capital, Ljubljana, in November, to discuss the claims made in the petition with members of the Slovenian media. The contents of the mission’s report remain confidential, although IPI publicly called for (as it had before) the establishment of an independent commission to investigate the claims made. IPI stated that, should no progress have been made in the establishment of such a commission by the end of year, a high-level mission would be sent to Slovenia in 2008 to meet with high-ranking politicians.
** For more information about media developments and press freedom in Albania, please see the SEEMO Media Handbook 2007/2008
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