BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union expressed concern Thursday about media freedom in Slovenia after the head of the country’s only news agency stepped down over a new public service contract that would dictate the way STA is funded.
STA Director Bojan Veselinovic resigned saying that the draft contract would damage the agency.
“I will never participate in the trampling of journalistic autonomy,” he said in a statement.
The government has provided no funds to the agency so far this year, according to the European Commission.
Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa, whose country currently holds the EU’s rotating presidency, has long been under scrutiny for keeping a stranglehold on STA. He insists that much of Slovenia’s media is biased against him, but he said in July that the funding issue would be resolved this fall.
“We regret and follow with concern the latest deterioration of the situation,” commission spokesman Christian Wigand told reporters. He said the EU’s executive branch has “repeatedly expressed our serious concerns” about the need for the government to ensure STA’s funding and independence.
“We urge the Slovenian authorities, the Slovenian government, to take decisive action to stop and reverse the current trend. The developments show, unfortunately once again, the need for EU legislation to protect media freedom and pluralism,” Wigand said.
European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova wrote to Slovenia’s culture minister last week demanding to know how and when the agency would be funded.
“Such a situation presents major risks for media freedom and media pluralism in Slovenia, and consequently in the EU,” she wrote.