The program changes in Slovenia’s public broadcaster have raised concerns in the public that they could curb critical journalism and thus benefit the center-right government, led by Janez Jansha.
Journalists and free press lawyers estimate that all these changes are made to provide favors for the ruling parties on the eve of the elections, which are expected to be held on April 24, 2022.
The amendments, approved by RTV Slovenia’s programming council on November 29th, cut short or repeal some major news programs, while others switch to a second less-watched channel.
“Whether or not the proposed reforms are designed to curb critical political journalism, their concrete impact would be to reduce RTV’s ability to inform the public and scrutinize the government,” Laurens C. Hueting, senior advocacy officer of the European Center for Press and Media Freedom, told VOA.
Reactions have also come from most journalists of TV Slovenia news programs, who have also signed a petition to oppose the plan.
“We want changes; we want a better work organization … but the adopted plan will disperse news reporting to several channels and thus reduce the interest of people in our news. So, our relevance will decrease,” senior TV Slovenia anchor Igor Evgen Bergant told VOA.
The management of the television has refused to give details about the changes, but the journalists have reported that all the political debates before the parliamentary elections of April 24 pass to the second channel. In addition, according to journalists, while the main evening news show “Dnevnik” will be shortened by almost a third of the duration.
The journalists’ petition won the public support of a number of Slovenian universities, academics, diplomats, trade unions, chambers of commerce and public institutes.
“It is difficult to prove whether the current government is behind these decisions,” said Marko Milosavljevic, a professor of journalism at the University of Ljubljana. However, he added, “such marginalization of the intelligence program could certainly benefit this government.”
The broadcaster receives most of its revenue from mandatory prepayment from most households. RTV Slovenia is governed by a 29-member Program Council mandated to operate independently. However, the majority of council members, 21, are appointed by parliament.