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Slovenian media pledge not to yield to pressure

Ljubljana, 28 October - Editors of a number of media outlets have issued a statement committing not to yield to pressure, nor change their truthful stance or their obligation to the public. They say the media are aware of their responsibility in the current health crisis, but the latter cannot be a pretence for political interference in media independence.

Ljubljana
Media cameras.
Photo: Anže Malovrh/STA
File photo

The 22 editors-in-chief who have signed the open letter say they are "aware of the significance and the critical nature of the moment in which we find ourselves because of the novel coronavirus pandemic".

Overcoming the virus will only be possible as a collective effort of the entire society, the letter says, adding this is everybody's responsibility "and a trial testing our ability to act rationally, make rational decisions, testing our capacity for solidarity, tolerance, patience and respectful dialogue".

The letter underlines that "no matter the exceptional nature of the time we are living right now, the media remain accountable to the society" by providing comprehensive and relevant information and placing events into a broader context, also explaining the latter.

The crisis has made it even more obvious that citizens need good journalism and, judging by polls, also access it frequently, the letter says. Without good quality media service, the public would not understand the virus and the awareness of the dangers it brings would be much poorer.

The media search for truth by sometimes asking uncomfortable questions, looking for answers from experts and insisting on reliable information amidst a stampede of false theories, the letter says. "We raise awareness, we educate but we also do not keep quiet about questionable actions of those in power. This means we are doing our job."

Measures are being taken by countries around the world to address the situation which is without comparison in modern time. But Slovenia is often an exception "in the standard of communication with citizens... in attacks against the media, journalists, in discreditations and demonisation of journalists, as well as in ascribing backgrounds to them that do not exist, and in pushing them into the political battle ring. We reject this."

The consequences of attacking the media are detrimental to the society. "This environment hampers the functioning of institutions and individuals and also has a significant effect on the lives of citizens."

The editors say that they do not avoid criticism nor do they deny making mistakes. Many media outlets have entered this crisis with a baggage of problems and pressure from the authorities most of them face weekly, if not daily, is an additional burden and hampers good journalism.

The letter was signed by 22 editors-in-chief from the leading newspapers Delo, Dnevnik, Večer, Slovenske Novice and Primorske Novice, to Svet24, television and radio programmes of the public broadcaster RTV Slovenija, the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), the sports newspaper Ekipa SN and weeklies Reporter, Mladina and Nedeljski Dnevnik.

Slovenian media have in recent months been subject to increased pressure with harsh criticism levelled against them by Prime Minister Janez Janša, who has accused mainstream media, among other things, of spreading fake news in the sense of denial of the novel coronavirus. Editors also note plans for controversial media legislation reform.

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© STA, 2020