By: Sara Kovač (Nova24tv.si)
The Constitutional Court has lifted the suspension of the government’s amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act and instructed that a new RTV Programme Council must be formed within a week. Voting in favour of the lifting of the order were judges Matej Accetto, Rajko Knez, Katja Šugman Stubbs and Špelca Mežnar.
There is currently great rejoicing among the majority left-wing RTV staff at the news of the lifting of the temporary suspension of the amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act, which the Constitutional Court was once again deciding on this week. This means the automatic termination of the mandates of RTV programme councillors. In addition, the Constitutional Court must rule on the constitutionality of the amendment at the initiative of the applicants.
The Constitutional Court suspended the implementation of the law, with which the government wants to subordinate the national media outlet Radio-Television Slovenia (RTV), because it showed a high probability of being unconstitutional. This makes the decision to lift the suspension all the more unusual and has only been used once in the Constitutional Court’s case law.
Judges Matej Accetto, Rajko Knez, Katja Šugman Stubbs and Špelca Mežnar were said to have voted in favour of the abolition. Judge Rok Svetlič voted against. Judges Klemen Jaklič and Marko Šorli were said to have abstained.
The Constitutional Court decided that a new Programme Council of RTV Slovenia must be constituted no later than seven days after the publication of this decision in the Official Gazette of the Republic of Slovenia. Within that period, the Acting Director-General of RTV Slovenia or the person acting in his or her place shall convene the first meeting of the new Programme Council of RTV Slovenia. If the Acting Director-General or the person acting in his or her place does not convene the meeting, the first meeting may be convened by at least one third of the members of the Programme Council of RTV Slovenia. The provisions of Article 22, paragraphs 2, 3 and 4, and Articles 23, 24, 25 and 26 of the Act on Amendments and Additions to the Act on Radio-Television Slovenia shall apply mutatis mutandis with regard to other issues of temporary management, administration and control of RTV Slovenia until the appointment of all new bodies.
Andrej Grah Whatmough, Acting Director-General of Radio-Television Slovenia, wrote in his response to the decision of the Constitutional Court that he respects today’s decision, according to which the suspension of the implementation of the amendment to the RTVS Act has been lifted. In line with the Constitutional Court’s decision, he will convene the first meeting of the new Council of the institution within the prescribed timeframe, the RTVS said.
Before today’s decision, former Constitutional Court judge Jan Zobec had already pointed out that if the suspension were to be lifted, the Constitutional Court would be committing a serious unconstitutional decision, as the petitioners would no longer have constitutional protection and the mandates of the programme councillors would irreversibly end.
Here are some responses from social media users to the Constitutional Court’s decision: former Prime Minister and President of the Slovenian Democratic Party (Slovenska demokratska stranka – SDS) Janez Janša wrote: “Yes, this is a historic decision, in at least two respects: 1. – from now on, any government can ‘free’ RTV Slovenia with its own law, following its own ideas of right and wrong. And 2. – from now on, just four Constitutional Court Judges can overrule a decision previously made by five judges in the same case. To be more precise, the Constitutional Court has ceased to exist today. Once again, we have unified, free authorities. A dictatorship.”
TV show host and editor of Nova24TV Aleksander Rant wrote: “The Constitutional Court has voted against its own previous decision, the Speaker of the National Assembly has publicly said that she did not follow the regulations during the epidemic, the government has erased the fines of the violent protesters, the Prime Minister has said that his government will take over RTV illegally. The rule of law no longer exists. Libertarec was very much right! #dictatorship” Rant was referring to a tweet of a Twitter user who goes by the nickname of
“Libertarec” (Libertarian). He wrote that the rule of law no longer exists in Slovenia, as now we have Freedom, adding in parenthesis that there was not much of the rule of law here, to begin with.
Another user pointed out that what seems like it would be good for citizens short-term, is not necessarily good for them long-term. “This is especially true when it comes to the decisions of the courts, which should, above all, be ensuring that we have a clear and stable order. And not that things are done on a whim. Which is exactly what their recent decision is…”
Meanwhile, Miro Haček wrote: “I would be really happy if this were actually about the de-politicisation of the national media outlet RTV. But unfortunately, that is not the case. The simple truth is that political parties and the directors, editors, journalists and others who support them will never stop fighting for control over the public RTV.”