STA Director resigns over independence concerns

5 October 2021

The Director of the Slovenian News Agency has resigned after rejecting a draft funding agreement that he believes undermines the independence of the organisation.

Credit: Slovenian Press Agency (STA)

Last Thursday, Bojan Veselinovič resigned as Director of the publicly funded and owned Slovenian Press Agency (STA). Reports reveal that his resignation comes after he rejected a draft contract by the Government Communications Office (UKOM) that would effectively change the funding model and operations of the organisation. According to public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, the proposal included potential funding and staffing cuts, which Veselinovič believes would be ‘damaging for the agency’.

Read more: Bojan Veselinovič resigned from the position of STA director. EANA is concerned about the future of the agency

At the time of writing, STA’s website highlights that it has been providing a public service without government funding for the past 278 days. This is despite the government’s statutory duty under the STA Act to pay for the news agency’s services and pressure from the European Union to resume STA’s funding. Journalist unions have also threatened to go on strike if funds are not restored.

The UKOM proposal does indeed suggest releasing these funds, but only on the condition that STA sign the agreement, an option Veselinovič describes as the effective “trampling of journalistic autonomy”.

Veselinovič’s resignation comes at a time when public media and media freedom are under immense pressure in Slovenia. The European Union – of which Slovenia currently holds the rotating Presidency – has expressed its concerns over media freedom in Slovenia following Veselinovič’s resignation. Since coming to power, Prime Minister Janez Janša has led a hostile campaign against independent media and critical reporting, and previously called STA a “national disgrace”.

Veselinovič’s replacement will be determined by STA’s Supervisory Board.

The Public Media Alliance was recently involved in a fact-finding mission led by IPI and the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR) initiative, which revealed the grim reality of the ongoing attempts to undermine independent media in Slovenia. As Slovenia’s EU Presidency gets underway, the PMA once again calls on authorities to resume funding for STA and preserve its editorial independence and autonomy.

Read the mission report here.