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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Open letter from Joze Biscak and Vinko Vasle to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU): Dear EBU, your concern for RTV Slovenia is completely unnecessary

Dear European Broadcasting Union (EBU),

Your concern for RTV Slovenia is moving, but completely unnecessary, and the independence of the public service broadcaster is not compromised. Nobody threatens journalists, editors and other employees, they are not harassed or persecuted, they freely provide and share information, opinions and views. Their freedom of expression is in no way jeopardized; only viewers who have to pay the public service broadcaster through the para-tax are not free. If they do not pay, they are threatened with enforcement, if someone does not pay a “contribution” to RTV Slovenia, the court may send him to prison.

The public media outlet is disturbed by any criticism which flies at it. You will probably agree that any criticism is welcome and urgently needed to maintain the pluralism of opinions and positions, and to maintain a free and democratic society. The latest criticism from viewers as well as from the government has been triggered by incorrect reporting by the public media which you defende. Of course, what is correct or incorrect reporting can be a completely subjective assessment, but different subjective evaluations of the work of any media (and public RTV Slovenia is no exception) can lead to different pluralism, since the absence of different views leads society into an intellectual darkness.

The current center-right government has also criticized the Slovenian public service broadcaster. The government has this right and this criticism is no threat or political pressure. If RTV Slovenia employees understand this criticism like that, this is, of course, their right, which we do not deny to anyone. But as an outside observers, we believe this is not the case. In times of pandemic, the government does not restrict the public broadcaster about anything: not about freedom of speech, nor media freedom, least of all it restricts the free flow of information.

But first things first. In your statement, you write that RTV Slovenia plays a key role in helping the country fight the pandemic during these critical times. From the analysis of the contents of this action, we can conclude that during these critical times, RTV plays a key role in trying to challenge the credibility of government actions in various agitation-propaganda ways. In doing so, it resorts to the sources of the current opposition, which at the beginning of the epidemic and pandemic was still the ruling coalition, which did not take the necessary measures. What is more, the previous coalition clearly underestimated the pandemic. Of course, RTV Slovenia has never commented or published this because it should acknowledge the good work of the current government of Janez Jansa and criticize the previous government of Marjan Sarec, who was previously employed on RTV as an associate of the comic, satirical show.

The Slovenian government also supposedly attack RTV Slovenia’s employment, financial and program policies, and this seems not to be supported by empirical data. Of course, RTV Slovenia does have too many employees for the nation of two million people, and you can quickly answer the question at the EBU, where you have comparative data, whether or not 2,200 full-time employees, with a crowd of around 500 part-time employees, are job-optimal. The answer, of course, is no. RTV Slovenia should be completely reorganized in terms of staff and organization, which would also affect the adequate financing of this public service. You state that the financing system of RTV Slovenia is outdated and needs to be modified, which must be agreed. The so-called electrical connection tax (everyone who has electricity must pay the RTV fee!) is faulty and widely criticized. At EUR 12.75, the monthly commitment is one of the highest contributions in Europe. With all this, the EBU now advocates that RTV SLO must receive “sufficient resources” to ensure the institutional independence of the public service media and to ensure its financial sustainability. The fact is, and it is also evident from the continuing demands of RTV’s management, especially CEO Igor Kadunc – that funds are never enough because the management of RTV SLO does not want to, or is unable to carry out the necessary institutional reorganization, even programmatically, to which the CEO is warned even by the current Supervisory Board. By the way, the Supervisory Board has repeatedly demanded the responsibility of the CEO from the Programming Board for an inadequate management policy, and only the opportunism of individual councilors prevented this replacement for a vote or two.

Regarding your warning about political pressure on RTV SLO, it should be said that every legitimate criticism in this house is already treated as an attack on autonomy and independence. Moreover, recent cases prove that RTV does not even respect the media law, which guarantees the other side the right of correction and reply. Thus, the Ministry of Culture submitted a request for correction three times (3x), which RTV SLO does not respect.

In general, it should be said that in the informative journalistic sense, the house is run and controlled by cadres who have learned journalism as forms of leftist agitation and propaganda, with some quietly resorting to untruths and some sophisticated forms of “the freedom to comment in a lie”. It is also obviously that there are individuals for RTV SLO who do not have access to its cameras and microphones. This selection is visible in the daily RTV SLO news program, which is not the only problem. A major problem is also the way of journalistic incitement, pogrom and ideological unilateralism in some individual RTV SLO shows (eg Studio City, Zapiski iz mocvirja). With leftist ideology, they repeatedly contaminate even children’s and youth shows, such as the Infodrom show.

On the other hand, individuals or shows that are not on the line of left-wing ideology, which proclaims itself for the only interpreter of both the past and the present, are problematized. Therefore, of course, even from within the leadership of RTV’s severe disqualifications and attacks goes to the doctor of historical sciences (he also served as TVS director for one term) Joze Mozina and his show Witnesses (Pricevalci), which reveals the other, darker sides of our past history. The author was not only attacked and disqualified by director-general Igor Kadunc and by left-wing political parties, but he also received direct death threats; the prosecution has not acted to date and dr. Mozina also did not receive the necessary support within RTV SLO. Even the so-called dispatch did not contain a single false statement on RTV SLO’s account. In terms of staff, RTV SLO is still the immediate heir and captive of the former communist regime. Its programming policy is not professionally, ideologically and politically neutral, but left-wing inciting, as evidenced by some scandals in this house in the past. Thus, for example, the then Brussels correspondents Meta Dragolic and Tanja Fajon, during the Slovenian presidency of the EU, intentionally prevented, as in Stalin’s times, any appearance of the then (and current) prime minister Janez Jansa. Meta Dragolic was rewarded with an editorial post after the end of her term as a correspondent, and Tanja Fajon, on the list of former communists, was rewarded with a parliamentary term in the EU Parliament, from where, sitting in a comfortable armchair, she advocates for independent, autonomous media in Slovenia, as they are expected to be threatened.

For example, the leadership of RTV, together with the Programming Board, allowed the appearance of well-known left-wing assailants with the banner “Death to the jansizem”, which means the death to Janez Jansa and all those who support him. Some time ago unknown perpetrators in the elevators of RTV glued warrants with the image of Janez Jansa, the prime minister, and with the inscription: Wanted dead or alive. When there were some minor protests in Ljubljana, RTV SLO also did not report on individuals who shouted “Death to Janez Jansa”, “Jansa should be killed”. On the other hand, they dismiss any criticism of unprofessionalism as an attack on autonomy and freedom.

Dear European Broadcasting Union (EBU), while your concern for RTV Slovenia is touching, it is quite unnecessary, and the independence of a public service broadcaster is not compromised. The truth is, as you can read, diametrically opposed to what they are trying to present to you as the only redemptive one.

Joze Biscak, editor-in-chief of Democracija magazine, and Vinko Vasle, longtime journalist and editor and former director of Radio Slovenia

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