Združenje novinarjev in publicistov
Annual Report of the Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) on the Situation in the Media Field in Slovenia in 2015 natisni

Situation in the field of media did not change significantly in 2015 as compared to the previous year. Criminal legislation, which directly affects the work of journalists, has improved in some areas. However, the journalists are still dissatisfied with poor performance of the Labour Inspection Services, in particular in areas of employment of journalists, poor employment opportunities and exploitation by media owners. Journalists in Slovenia have to deal with massive political pressure, and imbalance of our media remains the main issue in the Slovenian media space.

Amendments to the legislation

2015 was an important year for Slovenian journalists primarily because our Government decided to adopt some important amendments to the legislation. In spring, the National Assembly, our highest legislative authority, adopted amendments to the Penal Code. In the course of doing so, they (also) crossed out – following a proposal of the ZNP – the provision allowing criminal prosecution of journalists if they publish confidential data of state bodies. A new provision was adopted stipulating that such publication is not a criminal offence if there is an overriding public interest in favour of disclosure.

Another provision was deleted from the Penal Code (again) on the proposal of the ZNP, namely the one stipulating that the State Prosecutor's Office may prosecute journalists for offending public officials. From now on, criminal prosecution of journalists may be carried out only by officials themselves through private civil action, just as is the case with all other Slovenian citizens.

However, the ZNP unsuccessfully submitted a proposal to amend the Penal Code to stipulate that journalists can never be held criminally liable for their writing, and that they may be prosecuted only by private civil actions. In addition, another of our proposals was rejected, namely to include a provision stipulating that publication of private messages from public officials may be criminally prosecuted only by private civil action. Currently, this type of prosecution is being carried out by state bodies at the request of public officials.

In adopting amendments to the Penal Code, the ZNP successfully collaborated with another organisation of journalists in Slovenia, the Slovenian Association of Journalists, as well as with some non-governmental organisations.

In 2015, the National Assembly adopted amendments to the Media Act, the framework act applying to all media in Slovenia. The amending act brought about minor corrections to the media legislation. In doing so, the legislator failed to consider some proposals of the ZNP. Namely, the legislator failed to take into account our proposal to cross out the anachronistic provision stipulating that every corrigendum must be published in the very same section as the relevant writing. We filed this proposal because it would have been sufficient if the corrigendum was published in an equal section. At ZNP, we also miss provisions that would end the advertising monopoly of our largest commercial television station POP TV and the disloyal competition in this field.

The National Assembly in 2015 attempted to supplement the Public Information Access Act with a provision that would allow the public authority responsible for providing applicants (including journalists) with information of public nature to charge for the time spent preparing this information. Both associations of journalists, the Information Commissioner of the Republic of Slovenia and some non-governmental organisations all took a firm stand against this, and subsequently the National Assembly decided not to adopt the relevant provision.


Photojournalist convicted for publishing a text message sent by the Prime Minister

In the beginning of 2015, a final judgement entered into force in Slovenia in which the Court sentenced the photojournalist Jani Božič to five months of probation for taking a photograph in the National Assembly of the text message sent to the then candidate for Prime Minister, Alenka Bratušek, and for publishing this text message on his web portal. He was found guilty despite the fact that Bratušek received this text message from one of serious potential candidates for Prime Minister, Peter Kraljič, as early as 20 minutes before her election. In this text message, he congratulated her on her election. The ZNP finds such judgements reminiscent of the approaches used by some dictatorships in Africa and Asia. Such photographs are regularly published by the media in democratic societies without any judicial consequences. However, in our case, the prosecution of Božič ended in him moving to London, as he was no longer able to do his job in his home country.

In 2015, the Court prohibited the weekly Reporter to publish photographs taken in 2013 of the iPad screen which belonged to the then Minister of Defence, Roman Jakič. This message revealed that his friend from the political party Zares, namely the expert in defence studies Klemen Grošelj, advised him to make extensive changes to the staff at the Ministry.


Non-plurality of the Slovenian media space and the unregulated status of journalists

Non-plurality remains one of the main issues in the Slovenian media space in 2015. Both our largest public media companies, Radiotelevizija Slovenija (Radio-Television Slovenia) and Slovenska tiskovna agencija (Slovenian Press Agency - STA), are controlled by the Government's majority in the National Assembly, which appoints most members of the highest bodies of these two media companies, and this is often reflected in their reporting. The story is the same with all major private media companies, such as Delo, Večer, Dnevnik, and the largest commercial television station POP TV, which are mainly left-oriented. Both mentioned public media companies have been striving to ensure a minimum balance of their reports, whereas this can definitely not be said for the largest private media companies. The solution for this would be a large-scale development of private media companies, as these represent a different view of the world and politics; however, they very often face problems relating to a lack of funds and staff. The relevant issue could perhaps also be solved through a well-planned maintenance of internal plurality within our largest private media company (by doing so, they would also gain new readers), but considering past experience, this cannot be expected to happen.

The status of Slovenian journalists remains problematic. There are many journalists who, even after several years, still work for media companies (even the largest ones) on copyright contracts. The media companies will not employ them despite the fact that their work has the exact same characteristics of full-time employment. Namely, they work at the employer's premises, use the employer's equipment, and work 8 or more hours per day. As these journalists are afraid of losing their jobs, they do not bring an action against their employer, and the employer continues to exploit their position. This could be prevented by Labour Inspection Services, but the current situation shows that such inspections are obviously not effective enough.

Journalists are often forced to enter self-employment, become sole traders, even though they work for one media house exclusively and at their premises. In this manner, these employers lower their costs, for they do not have to employ the journalist who has become sole trader nor do they have to pay his taxes and contributions.

Slovenian official bodies do not prosecute threats against journalists

In 2015, some threats were made against the journalists which again showed the ineffectiveness of our legislation, which does not provide for an effective prosecution of those who make such threats. At the same time, the prosecution bodies proved to be extremely unresponsive.

In January 2015, only a few hours after the horrific Islamist massacre of journalists at the Parisian weekly Charlie Hebdo, an anonymous person made a similar threat to the journalists of opposition weeklies Demokracija and Reporter via Facebook. He wrote that what happened to the Charlie Hebdo's journalists is nothing compared to what will happen to the journalists of Demokracija and Reporter. The journalists reported him to the Police and the State Prosecutor's Office, but the State Prosecutor dismissed their criminal complaint explaining that this was only an “individual's momentary expression of discontent”. Since the journalists could not identify the offender without access to the IP address of the computer from which he made his threat, they were unable to criminally prosecute him on their own. Therefore, they filed a proposal with the Court to carry out some investigative steps, but the Court turned down their proposal. As to the reason for this decision, they explained that many individuals use social media to express their dissatisfaction with the political and social situation. The Court even wrote that one should take into account that “Demokracija and Reporter are classified as political press, and these two weeklies know how to agitate the general public, which may lead to strong reactions of individuals”. This is a sort of an ideologically loaded assessment that should have never been made by the Court.

As a result, the journalists could not do anything but file an action against the Court, which has not been decided yet.

In 2015, we also witnessed pressure placed on particular media and individuals who reported on the migrant crisis with criticism or who warned about issues related to the migrants' safety, integration and their incompatibility with the European values and culture. The mentioned pressure was exerted primarily by civil society organisations, which are largely funded by the State.

In Ljubljana, 3 May 2016 Management Board of ZNP

 
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