Slovenian Left pushes law to ensure editorial autonomy of national public broadcaster

A law to ensure journalistic independence and editorial autonomy of national public broadcaster RTV Slovenia has been passed in the National Assembly. However, its governing executives, who were appointed by the previous government, have approached the Constitutional Court for a review

January 03, 2023 by Peoples Dispatch
Slovenian Minister of Culture Asta Vrečko. Photo: Twitter

The Levica (Left) party in Slovenia has reiterated its resolve to push and quickly implement reforms in the governance of national public broadcaster RTV Slovenia (Radio-Television of Slovenia). Last week, the leadership of Levica—which is part of the incumbent coalition government in the country—claimed that the current executives of RTV Slovenia have been trying to resist progressive changes proposed by the government to ensure independence and editorial autonomy of the public broadcaster. 

The law proposing amendments to the governance structure of RTV was passed in the National Assembly of Slovenia and approved by the people in a referendum held on November 27. On December 29, Minister of Culture Asta Vrečko, from Levica, stated that “opposition parties and the current politically set leadership of RTV are trying by all means to prevent the legal changes with which we want to remove party politics from the management of the public broadcaster.”

The law has been opposed by the conservative Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS), led by former Prime Minister Janez Janša, and a section of the incumbent RTV executivea appointed by the previous government. Some of the incumbent RTV governing council members have approached the Constitutional Court to review the law.

On November 27, Slovenians voted in a triple referendum in which they overwhelmingly supported three laws—regarding the public broadcaster, cabinet organization, and long-term care. The referendum was pushed by the Freedom Movement-Social Democrats-Levica coalition government headed by Prime Minister Robert Golob. The law amending the governance structure of RTV to eliminate the direct influence of politicians received 62.8% support in the referendum. 

The law proposes “restructuring of the two current governing councils into a single supervisory body whose 17 members will be appointed and composed of representatives from civil society and RTV Slovenia employees.” A majority of the members of the governing council of RTV were appointed by the National Assembly. 

The legislation has been welcomed by progressive sections and various journalist unions in Slovenia and abroad. RTV staff had earlier taken to protests, including strike action, against the partisan management of RTV, seeking greater journalistic and editorial autonomy and calling for an end to the politicization of public media houses. 

RTV currently operates national, regional, and international radio services, national and regional TV services, and a multimedia portal.

On December 29, in a television debate, Vrečko said that “the constitutional review on the new RTV law is another delaying maneuver. The new law on RTV was first approved in the National Assembly, then it was reaffirmed by the people with a large majority at the referendum. The basic purpose of the law is to ensure institutional and programmatic autonomy of RTV and to protect journalistic or editorial independence. This is a prerequisite that RTV can perform its legally defined mission, based on the constitutionally protected right to freedom of expression and public information.”

Levica had stated earlier that “the current management of RTV Slovenia is determined to use all available resources to stay in their positions for as long as possible. After the defeat in the referendum, the settlement is expected to be moved to the court. But the will of the people was clear. Instead of mixing politics, those who are most interested in the normal functioning of the public media: employees and civil society will get the decisive word.”