Despite their crucial role during the Covid-19 crisis, many public broadcasters are facing criticism and threats from their governments, including RTV Slovenija.  

Recently Slovenia made the headlines when their Prime Minister Janez Janša criticised the work of its public broadcaster RTV Slovenija saying, “apparently there are too many of you and you are paid too well” and that the public broadcaster “misled the public”. Janša, who has branded the media as a “presstitution”, tweeted his denunciation after RTV Slovenija aired an interview outlining that the government planned to increase the salaries of ministers and secretaries of state.

These criticisms have been widely interpreted as direct threats, with many likening the rhetoric faced by the broadcaster as another example of political leaders using the pandemic to enforce measures that allow them to control the flow of information.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) have vocalised their support for RTV Slovenija, saying that the government’s attacks are unfounded and emphasised the broadcaster’s crucial role in serving the public during the pandemic.

The EBU also said that while they are open to feedback from the government, “[they] fear the accusations seek to undermine the independence of the public broadcaster and the competencies of their management and supervisory bodies.”

Read more: Governments must not use coronavirus as an excuse to curtail media freedom

Janša’s tweet was also criticised by the Journalists’ Association (DNS) and the Journalists’ Trade Union.

In addition to the Prime Minister’s public reprobation, the government also sent a letter to the Council of Europe’s Platform for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists asserting that the “majority of mainstream media in Slovenia stem from the Communist regime.”

The Journalists’ Association responded to this move by saying that the letter did not reflect the reality of Slovenia’s media market, which has been operating within a “relatively normal framework” over the past 30 years.

The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s(OSCE) Representative on Freedom of the Media, Harlem Désir commented on the situation saying, “Media professionals must be able to operate free of any form of pressure or intimidation. In this time of health crisis, the role of an independent public broadcaster, as of other independent media, is key in providing important and reliable information to the public and in combating false information on the pandemic. I hope the government will support RTVS in this important mission. There should be no threats to RTVS’ journalists, as this could be detrimental to the work of the public service broadcaster and have a chilling effect on media freedom in the country more generally.”

The Public Media Alliance offers its support to RTV Slovenija and condemns the attacks on the public broadcaster. More than ever the public need trusted and independent public media for accurate and actionable information.

Header Image: Building of RTV Slovenia (Television’s part). Credit: Pv21/Creative Commons