By: Peter Jančič (Spletni časopis)
“The relevant services at RTV Slovenia were not informed about the incident.” This was the response I received from RTVS regarding the request for clarification on the allegations made by editor and journalist Valentin Areh, claiming that his belongings were taken from the table in the RTVS building during the time when the new management under Zvezdana Martić placed him on leave and prohibited his entry into the building. Several media outlets reported on this over the weekend.
Valentin Areh himself warned the public in a public letter that unknown individuals had stolen archival documentation and portable storage devices from his office desk at RTV. He also noted that the archival material was taken after Rok Smolej, Ksenija Horvat, Zvezdan Martić, and Andrej Trček unexpectedly and overnight took away his job. This was followed by a prohibition of access to the premises and personal belongings. Criminal investigators visited RTV and initiated an investigation, as reported by Areh.
About the unusual events when TVS journalists were denied access to the building where they work, the parliamentary Committee on Culture discussed a week ago, at the request of the SDS, but the committee chairwoman Sara Žibrat (Svoboda) did not invite a police representative before the lawmakers, as suggested by the opposition. Andrej Hoivik explained the opposition’s proposal to invite a police representative by stating, “The employees, all 15 of them, were forced to call the police to ask if they could enter the space where they had been working for up to 30 years to pick up their personal belongings. Something like this has never happened before.” The opposition suggested inviting me, as a member of the Association of Journalists and Publicists and the head of the Freedom of Expression Institute. I have also been a member of the Council and the Programme Council of RTVS in the past decade. After the new year, I warned that the leadership of RTVS is acting completely illegally when they even placed the responsible editor Rajko Gerič on leave, whom was not officially dismissed as that cannot be done so hastily. Žibrat explained the rejection of these proposals as follows:
Sara Žibrat: “First, you suggested that I invite Peter Jančič as the editor of the Spletni časopis. I do not see the need for this particular person to comment on events at RTV if he is not connected to RTV. This is not a public presentation of opinions, and we will not invite just any political commentator, the editor of some private media who would like to comment on events at RTV. Furthermore, the Human Rights Ombudsman. In the National Assembly, we deal with general reports containing statistical, analytical, and anonymous data on human rights violations, not specific cases. Therefore, I do not see the need for the Committee on Culture to deal with specific potential violations of human rights. Then the inspector from the Inspectorate of Labour and the director of the Police Administration. I explained from the beginning that we are not the Labour Committee and that we will not deal with violations of labour legislation. In addition, your proposal involves political pressure on the work of state authorities, and as politicians, we do not have the right to interfere in any ongoing procedures, criminal, or inspection procedures.”
At the session, Martić and Horvat were also present, and now, through the RTVS public relations office, they claim not to have heard anything about the theft. The police, when I checked, explained: “Due to the respect for the provisions on the protection of personal data, we cannot answer questions related to specific individuals. However, we can confirm that the police are collecting information based on a filed complaint, and all findings will be reported to the relevant state prosecutor.”
The response from RTVS shows that the management of Zvezdan Martić and the director of the television Ksenija Horvat do not read media reports about what is happening in their own institution, and although they claim to be collecting information, the police have not notified them or asked them anything about the events. The accusations of theft from a journalist at his workplace, where they prevented him from accessing, do not seem to concern the top management of RTVS either.
When I further investigated how this is possible, Areh said that after the publication that his things were stolen, no one from the management of the institution contacted him orally, in writing, or by phone. “Apparently, no one in the RTV management is interested in why the criminal police came to their business premises, what happened, and what was stolen,” he assessed and pointed out that in the past, the leaders have always inquired about what happened in such cases and offered help to the journalist.