Združenje novinarjev in publicistov
Panel discussion Media pluralism in reporting on european topics natisni

 

MEDIA PLURALISM IN REPORTING ON EUROPEAN TOPICS


Panel discussion featuring, 20. 10. 2017, European Union House Ljubljana:


Tanja Fajon, M.Sc., current MEP, former EU correspondent in Brussels for Slovenia’s national broadcasting organization

Franc Bogovič, engineer in agronomy, former mayor, current MEP

Ivo Jevnikar, former chief editor, editorial board for information of Slovenian RTV in Trieste

Matevž Tomšič, PhD. Professor at the Faculty of Information Studies and the Faculty of Applied Social Studies

Peter Jančič, former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Delo and present editor of the online newspaper ‘Spletni časopis'

Tino Mamić, president of the Association of Journalists of the Slovene Littoral

The debate was moderated by Irena Zagajšek, M.Sc., president of the Association for the research of the European Integration.

Invited were all Slovenian MEPs, the media, and the general

public.

The guest from abroad : Mauro Gentile, Managing Coordinator 

Eurogiornalisti.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………

Highlights of the conference

-Democracy and media pluralism are tightly intertwined. According to Eurobarometer survey of 2016 for the European Union, 1 out of 5 interviewees believe that the national media do not communicate information that would be independent from political or economic pressures and they do not trust them. Less than a half said that they trust the information they receive from the media.

-If Slovenia is in a similar situation, how does the editorial policy deal with these pressures and seek balance?

-The research showed that financial pressures are often the determining factor in investigative journalism. Media pluralism is quantitatively in a good shape in Slovenia, while qualitatively it is not: there is a division between the left and the right political options and, according to the researcher professor Marko Milosavljevič PhD, the Chair of Journalism at the Faculty of Social Studies. The media ownership structure is also an important factor.

-Without qualitative changes in the state of the media it would be impossible to change the political system. Public services in general play an important role in it. According to the Eurobarometer survey the public information service is non-transparent and inefficient in France, Hungary and Rumania. The guidelines for financial support issued by the EC are taken properly into consideration only in France and in Italy.

-The 'Media Pluralism Monitoring' research showed that, in Slovenia, the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) is problematic because of the state ownership and its almost monopoly position despite the law of 2011. The second problematic area is direct or indirect state funding as well as the funding and management of the national, public radio and television company.

-How can we reverse the trend?

-The research also showed that the internet media are more popular in those EU member states in which traditional media have lost credibility.

…………………………….

In his opening address Klemen Žumer, M.Sc., head of the European Parliament Office in Slovenia, pointed out that the EU citizens are becoming increasingly aware of the important role and work of the EP for their everyday lives, and that 72% of Slovenians are aware of the benefits of their EU membership.

Tanja Fajon spoke about her job of a journalist in Brussels before becoming a member of EP in 2009. It was then a big media centre with 1400 journalists, in whose work self-initiative played an important role. There was great interest in all topics, especially those connected with Slovenia, and no direct pressure was felt in the sense of censorship, creation of news, shortening etc. Now things have changed, enthusiasm has diminished, the news often throw a negative light on Brussels democracy, while important topics are ignored. – She pointed out that there is a briefing for journalists before each Strasbourg session, so speaking about a lack of openness for the media would be inappropriate. She has also mentioned that her office published important news on the Dublin system and none of the media published the news.

Franc Bogovič, whose office reports abundantly on his work as an MEP, would also expect more interest in and more following of their work by the media. The journalists ignore important projects, big and also minor ones that could later bring about important positive consequences but they are unable to foresee them. Important themes are not covered, too much attention is given to sensationalistic news, and there is very little goal orientation in their approach. Project Smart Villages is such an example, as well as the overlooked presentation in Brussels of Goriška Brda Wine Producers, proper and timely reporting on the dispute over registration of Teran Wine etc.

Irena Zagajšek mentioned the EU research results showing that in their reporting the media are not independent from or free of political and economic pressures. More than half of the EU citizens do not trust their national media. Localization, nationalization of the EU news is common practice.

Ivo Jelnikar – in the past there was more state funding, for minorities for example, now we only receive it from time to time. The state has the funds and could provide higher state incentives for journalists, for example for reporting from the European parliament, so as to prevent alienation. It is important for Slovenia to be a member state, we have common currency, no border controls. Appropriate would be regular in-depth articles or broadcasts analysing the world events and processes as well as those within the EU, in various rubrics etc.

Peter Jančič – before, the coverage of the EU and world themes was more elaborated, we did not depend on agency news, but now there is staff deficiency in strategic areas of the world events; in Greece, Spain, Crimea, we do not have anyone, so we must improvise, quickly send somebody there. Brussels still has some good reporters, useful for our media landscape and on them we depend.

Slovenian government is involved in the EU policy making and we, as media, should be aware of it. But the Slovene officials consider it appropriate that the things are hidden from public. The parliament is more open, while the government is non-transparent. For example the Committee for the European affairs was a closed group, and it was this committee that was formulating viewpoints on migrations. This has now changed.

Franc Bogovič – very few of our ministers are present at the meetings of the National (?) Council of the EU. We do have limited resources, but we must know what we want to achieve and formulate views on the matters. Or we will only be followers of events, not creators. When my team and the Hungarians introduce 'smart villages' we got an opportunity for a strong indirect influence on other things. Through engagements on a smaller scale we can achieve bigger things.

Irena Zagajšek– an important place should also be given to transnational European policies.

Tino Mamić – The Slovenian left has the biggest influence on the Slovenian media. The European union has just happened to them and they don't know what to do with this new political and economic reality. The EU is the basis of democracy, it guarantees peace. The Economic crisis would have hit us more strongly if we hadn't been EU members. Our government cannot do just what they like.

Matevž Tomšič – the hardest are not political but economic pressures from the media owners and from colleagues belonging to a different political option. There is an obvious link between the owners and the manner of reporting. The construction of the second track of the Divača Koper railway (27 km) is such an example - the dominant media are in favour of the second track, which points to connections; the owner of the Delo newspaper has business connections in the field of construction. A coincidence?

The Magna international project (construction of a paint factory) is another such example – the media are very much in favour of it because the existing business connections promise concrete benefits.

Irena Zagajšek – Brussels is issuing information different from what is in case of the second railway track conveyed by the Slovene mainstream media.

Matevž Tomšič – the pressures are indirect.

Some panellists object to the statement that political left is responsible for the lack of the information on the EU policies.

The moderator answers that her statements are based on the research data, and that the debate needs also to be specific on the information on the European policies. Political pressure in one country affects the whole European Union. Information given by the public service is also partial or there is no information at all, because preferences prevail.

The public service is inefficient in France, Hungary and Rumania. The guidelines from the EC are only followed by Greece and France.

In Slovenia, the Slovene Press Agency is problematic because it is state-owned and has therefore a monopoly position. A problem is also direct and indirect funding, especially of the national TV company, and it affects not only the editorial policy but causes broader structural problems.

Analyses also show an increase in euro scepticism on the left political spectrum, an orientation towards Russia, diminishing European topics, increase in spins, counter-European themes, every barometer shows a fall in pro-European orientation. The media could see its mission in a coverage that wouldn't be left- or right-oriented.

Irena Zagajšek stated the question– “Is the reason for a lack of topics on the European policies the resources, the journalists themselves, the European Communication Policy?”

Franc Bogovič– the same as in national themes, there is a focus on scandals, an interest in European salaries and our salaries. Sensationalistic topics and reporting in general show a lack of knowledge, journalists not knowing about or understanding the events and processes, their meaning and consequences.

Peter Jančič – I would be careful about attributing the reasons for the situation to the left- or right-oriented political structures. We have always had state ownership of the media, in left and right governments. Journalism is a long-term instrumentalism and must not be destroyed in its public segment. The reason for the situation is inadequate leading/management, the hiring of friends etc. Who would cover European themes if not the public service? Commercial media don't do this. Let us talk about how to improve things, how to encourage the best, look for exceptional achievements, good reporting, and be careful about this incessant mention of the left and the right... The closeness of committees was caused by the right-wing option, but also journalists did not put enough pressure on those responsible for issuing information.

Concrete examples – migrations – we didn't take care of the basic security, taking fingerprints for example, the system even crashed, there was some irresponsibility there and I was more strict and my views were more right-oriented than those coming from the real right.

Franc Bogovič – we in Slovenia think that western democracy is a completed system but it is not, it is a process. Also new media that are appearing are no added value to our journalistic landscape. There are other goals behind their creation.

Eurogiornalisti (Mauro Gentile)- on migrations – we need to show solidarity but the criteria should differ from country to country according to their capacities. We can't compare Germany and Baltic countries. The Vishegrad group has a great majority of autochthonous, original inhabitants and lower absorption power. Immigration is alien to them.

Not all the media communicate information in the same way and each of them influences perception in its own way. Observed has even been qualitative dysfunction, i.e. fake news.

Matevž Tomšič – in Slovenia, some problematic phenomena were associated to migrations. They tried to shape the attitude according to the multicultural ideology while ignoring the security problem. When it emerged, they tried to wash their hands.

Tino Mamić – in Slovenia the press code is violated on a daily basis. One thing is a commentary, another is the news. The association of journalists of Slovenia should deal with it. With newspapers and magazines such as Demokracija(right) and Mladina(left) this is ok, but Delo should be neutral.

Irena Zagajšek– intervened that the guideline for the debate are the data from the researchesin the EU. The goal is the democratization of the EU, in which we observe a persistent democratic deficit. The situation in the field of the media is alarming, especially in public services. According to the research the problem has disorientated to such an extent that even the enhanced transparency will not have an effect. The most evident result of the qualitative dysfunction of media is »fake news«.

Franc Bogovič : The Europeans became serious about the EU only after the Brexit.

A special guest at the conference, Mr. Mauro Gentile, the managing director of the network Eurogiornalisti from Venice, agreed that, generally speaking, there is too much of negative reporting on the part of the journalists, without proposing possible solutions, and that is why there is not a great enough interest in the news. Necessary is professional reporting without pointing all the time at political divisions such as left and right. They are becoming obsolete. Commentaries are necessary but they should not generate confusion.

We must not use a common, standardized template for solidarity when discussing immigration ; taken into consideration must be the capacities of a country in the sense of funds and the perception of the consequences of receiving thousands of strangers under one's roof. Croatia accepted 600 hundred refugees, in Treviso there are 600 in one house. The Veneto region took 20.000 people, the whole Italy 170.000. There are no parallels here.

We must also discern between migrants and refugees and apply different criteria accordingly.

Irena Zagajšek asked if there is an agreement upon a statement that the journalists should practice the full information approach.

 

Joint statement:

»We call on the media to take into consideration, when reporting on the issues dealt with in the European Union, a full information approach and a strict compliance with the press code of ethics.«

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_ElSySlIe0&;feature=youtu.be

 

Bibiliography for the moderation of the debate

Special Eurobarometer 452.Media pluralism and democracy.2016. November.European Commission. Fieldwork September-October 2016.

 

Media Pluralism and Democracy.Outcome of the 2016 Annual Colloquim on Fundamental rights.Conclusions.2016. European Commission.

 

Parlemeter. 2017. European Parliament. DGCOM. Brussels.

 

 

 
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