23 May 2023 marked one year since the beginning of the strike at the Slovenian public broadcaster Radiotelevizija Slovenija (RTV Slovenia). The Journalists’ Union of Slovenia and the Coordination of Journalists’ Unions in RTV yesterday organised a public debate in support of the strike, to remind that the demand for a public broadcaster free from any interference is still valid.
“What kind of RTV do we want?” was the theme of the public debate which invited RTV journalists and experts to reflect on the past year and the future. Solidarity messages were also sent from across borders, where journalists’ organisations, members of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), share the struggle for independent public broadcasters.
Journalists’ organisations in Slovenia have long warned about the alarming situation at RTVS, denouncing a political takeover of the broadcaster, interference in the work of journalists, and violations of trade union rights. Last October, thirty-eight journalists were given notices before dismissal in retaliation for their solidarity actions with their colleagues. Pressure, threats and sanctions on critical employees and strikers continue. More than 40 journalists and editors resigned or quit their job in the TV news programme alone.
The President of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) Maja Sever attended the event and reiterated the Federation’s support for the strikers: “I have been following your struggle for years. 365 days after the start of the strike at RTV Slovenia, you publicly warned against the political agenda to destroy and take over public media. You warned against a threat that has meanwhile become a reality for many public media services in Europe, and thus an exceptional danger for freedom of expression, media pluralism and democracy.”
Your struggle has become a source of inspiration for the movement for depoliticised public television, a movement that should spread beyond Slovenia’s borders, EFJ President Maja Sever added.
While the independence of broadcasters is under threat in many European countries, the latest example being Italy, the EFJ Broadcasting Expert Group (BREG) sent the following messages: “For more than a year, we have been following the courageous fight against injustice that the journalists are waging to have the programming and supervisory board of RTV Slovenia de-politicised. They deserve admiration for their strength in the face of pressure, threats and sanctions. We stand with you and support all legal measures, so that the broadcaster gets real independence, because you are fighting for an important basis of democracy. The weakening of the autonomy and independence cannot be accepted under any circumstances.”
From Italy, Niki Filipović, a journalist from the radio and television station RAI and representative of the journalists’ union FNSI, emphasised that quality and versatile information are an absolute condition for the existence of a modern, healthy democracy.
Soraya Morvan-Smith, a journalist and editor at France 24 and a representative of the French journalists’ union SNJ-CGT, spoke in a video message about the attacks on the French public broadcaster and added: “We expressed our unity with you in your strike. We share the necessity for democracy, first of all, and of editorial autonomy.”
The Constitutional Court is still deliberating on the amendments to the RTV reform, but is expected to issue its decision soon. The changes of the law will be the first step towards depoliticisation of the programming council and supervisory board.