Fundraising campaign launched for the STA
Ljubljana, 3 May - A month-long fundraising campaign kicked off on World Press Freedom Day in a bid to secure funding for the Slovenian Press Agency (STA), which has not received budget funds for the performance of public service for four months.
Called "Za obSTAnek", the campaign aims to raise two million euros for the agency via small SMS donations and from potential larger donors and kicked off with a press conference in front of the STA headquarters on Monday. National daily newspapers carried front-page stories in support of the campaign as well.
"Its goal is to prevent looming insolvency hanging over the agency. The first reactions show that the decision is correct, and that many at home and abroad are siding with freedom of the press," said Petra Lesjak Tušek, the president of the Association of Slovenian Journalists.
"The STA is our common service, a compass in the media landscape. Broader mobilisation is urgent to prevent this pillar from collapsing. Perhaps it is not an exaggeration to say that this is the hill we die on."
She said the campaign was not just about the STA. "It is about all of us, our public, the right to be informed, the question of the kind of society we wish to live in."
The association acts as the nexus of several initiatives that have sprung up to help the STA offset the shortfall of public funding, which accounts for roughly half of the agency's overall revenue.
"If every citizen contributes one euro, we will have safeguarded the existence of a professional, independent and unbiased public service," the association has said.
STA editor-in-chief Barbara Štrukelj thanked the association for launching the campaign. "Sadly, the STA was a successful company at the end of 2020, now it is on the brink of insolvency - because of the government's ignorance of the law."
The campaign brings together all major Slovenian media outlets plus several trade unions as well as the International Press Institute (IPI), European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the European Alliance of News Agencies (EANA).
IPI said that if the STA did not receive funding soon, "a vital part of the Slovenian media ecosystem will be silenced and an important source of the country's independent news and information will be lost."
"That is why to mark World Press Freedom Day, IPI is today joining partner organizations across Europe in standing up for the STA and demanding that the Slovenian government of Prime Minister Janez Janša immediately unblock its financing to allow the agency to continue to carry out its vital public service mission," IPI deputy director Scott Griffen said.
The campaign has received significant political attention as the leaders of opposition parties berated the government because of its unlawful suspension of STA financing. Several prominent political leaders also published screenshots of their donations.
LMŠ leader Marjan Šarec said it was important that the press was financially independent "and it is crucial that those in power understand that". SAB leader Alenka Bratušek said it was a shame that such fundraising was needed on World Press Freedom Day.
Prime Minister Janez Janša meanwhile tweeted that Slovenia was the only country in the world "where leftists are collecting contributions for the wealthy director [Bojan] Veselinovič with an annual salary in excess of EUR 100,000. He is responsible for the STA breaking the law."
Veselinovič made just over EUR 81,000 gross last year according to the executive pay section of the STA's annual report.
Colaition Modern Centre Party (SMC) leader Zdravko Počivalšek said he was saddened by the STA's situation given that it is "one of the fairer and more balanced media" in Slovenia, but noted that journalists who were doing their job "cannot pay for the irresponsible actions of the director".
New Slovenia (NSi) leader Matej Tonin did not refer directly to the STA as he called for greater media plurality that must reflect the different values of the citizens. "This is the foundation for building a tolerant and inclusive society."
The details of the fundraising campaign are available at https://zaobstanek.si/.