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Uroš Urbanija: “The obvious desire of Robert Golob’s government to forcefully appropriate the public space of discourse is increasingly reminiscent of Russia and the Russian media”

RTVS (Photo: STA)

By: Gal Kovač / Nova24tv

The referendum campaign is in full swing, and as part of it, there was a confrontation between the director of Television Slovenia, Uroš Urbanija, and the president of the left-wing March 8th Institute, Nika Kovač. The two guests on the show discussed their views on what is happening at public RTV and what the amendment to the law on RTV brings, which was adopted by Robert Golob’s government without public debate in an expedited procedure. In terms of arguments, the debate was distinctly one-sided. While Kovač attacked Urbanija with unverified information in a distinctly demanding and emotional style, he answered her calmly and almost factually. Among other things, he explained how the essential problem of RTV is the non-transparency of some employees, even minors. He stated the democratisation of public discourse as his goal.

The debate started with the recent hostile outburst of one of RTV’s trade unionists, Helena Milinković, who called her colleagues, in fact only those who disagree with her, as dogs with a master. In the introduction, the host asked Nika Kovač, who comes from the same cultural sector as Milinković, about the statement, who said that the March 8th Institute does not support this kind of communication, but that it is necessary to focus on the causes of such behaviour, while Urbanija said, that the problems cannot even begin to be solved, or it is difficult to solve them when colleagues are labelled dogs.

The debate then addressed the essence of the problem facing the Slovenian media space. Nika Kovač accused Urbanija that before assuming the position of director of Television, he was the director of the Government Office for Communication. To this, he replied that public RTV should be an open place for everyone and that before the arrival of the new management, there were informal lists of prohibited persons who should not be invited there, and a black list of topics that were not mentioned or only in passing. “At RTV, we have a problem of censorship and exclusion, and a key element and the fight for the democracy of the media is to open up this area of ​​public discourse. The door to this medium should not be closed to anyone, in terms of contributing to public discourse.” When challenged by the host of the show, whether the same also applies to obvious supporters of some political parties, Urbanija replied that political definition is not important, as we are all citizens of the Republic of Slovenia.

Urbanija: transparency is essential

At the same time, he emphasised the importance of transparency. “I came, I have my views, I have my values, which is legitimate and what everyone at RTV actually has, and that is right. The question is whether the place where I am is doing the work professionally or not. Transparency is also important. Everyone knows what positions I represent, and it is transparent and clear.” Urbanija then returned the ball and pointed out that we have another problem at RTV, namely that many journalists in the past presented themselves as objective and independent, and then went directly into politics. Of course, this was directed at Tanja Fajon, the president of the Social Democrats, or the MP of the Gibanje Svoboda party, Mojca Šetinc Pašek, both former RTV journalists, who misled the Slovenian public about their supposed political indeterminacy until they entered the political ranks.

The hysterical learned attacks continue

The President of the March 8th Institute did not respond to the arguments but continued her attacks. She provoked Urbanija by accusing him of changing the programme schedule (cancellation of Studio City, etc.) and, among other things, of sanctioning the intrusion into the studio, with which left-wing activists in the ranks of public RTV wanted to inform the Slovenian public that the work of their journalist colleagues had been completely correct. She also accused him that the previous government had appointed an unbalanced programme council.

Urbanija replied that during the government of Marjan Šarec, the parliamentary practice of excluding the opposition was established, which then continued, and he himself advocated that this also be corrected by law.

“Speaking of politics withdrawing from the appointment of programme councillors does not stand up to serious scrutiny. We have a Council for Sustainable Development that nominates one candidate. Who appoints the members of this council? A minister. The Council for National Culture, which appoints two representatives, also through the National Assembly. We are only looking for some bypasses where politics will interfere even more with the operation of RTV. Non-transparent, just so we are clear. After all, also the information officer, who appoints her? The ombudsman, who is appointed by a two-thirds majority, but despite everything, it goes through politics. By abolishing the power of the people, through the National Assembly.”

“This is more and more reminiscent of Russia”

According to Urbanija, the obvious desire of Robert Golob’s government to usurp the public space of discourse is increasingly reminiscent of Russia. “The desire to withdraw this transparency of decision-making from the side of the people is more and more reminiscent of the system of Russia and the Russian media,” said the director of TV Slovenija.

All the lies of Saša Kranjc, Bojan Veselinović, and Marko Milosavljević

The interlocutors also talked about the lies that RTV presenter Saša Kranjc told in public. Nika Kovač criticised Urbanija for reducing the number of times a well-known face of RTV can host evening news shows, and he replied that he was sorry that Mr. Kranjc lied so evidently (according to his own admission) in public. “It turned out that Mr. Kranjc has the same number of shifts as the others. In addition to the shifts, the responsible editor also entrusted him with the confrontation of mayoral candidates, that is, even more demanding management, such as managing TV dailies.” Urbanija then said that it saddens him that Kranjc, as a person who should be especially credible in public, is mathematically proven to lie in public.

He also responded to the allegation that, as director of UKOM, he had put the employees of the Slovenian Press Agency in dire straits. “The former director of STA manipulated the implementation of both the contract and the Slovenian Press Agency Act in every possible way.” Then he explained one of the biggest nerve points of the cheating of the former director Bojan Veselinovič, who, contrary to the law, billed the services of the photography service twice. First to the state, and then to end users. At the end, Urbanija suggested that the next director, Igor Kadunc, who does not belong to the right-wing political option in any way, immediately recognised the deviations of his predecessor, and today STA is in a much better financial condition than it was ever before.

Urbanija also warned against the lies of Marko Milosavljević, a professor from the Faculty of Social Sciences in Ljubljana. “It saddens me that a professor who teaches journalism, from whom I would expect to look at matters professionally, speaks as the most passionate member of some far-left party. Look at what happened on RTV in the past. In 2011, when the elections were held, I was the managing editor of MMC. The next day after the elections, when it turned out that Mr. Zoran Janković had won, the pogrom started over me. So that they could remove me, they abolished the post of editor-in-chief of MMC. This problem has not been solved to this day, even if the workers’ council already warned in 2017 that this was unacceptable.”

“Then you have the example of 2017, how things were done with the editor in charge at the time, Jadranka Rebernik. Because of one interview, which was not to the liking of the then government, she was dismissed. These were those difficult moments in the history of RTV, where it happened for the first time that journalists and editors who do not think the same as part of left-wing politics had to leave their positions because of their views.”

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