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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    SAT, 11 FEB 1995 19:40:19 GMT

    Political struggle for the media

    POLITICAL, NOT PUBLIC MEDIA

    Slovenia has never shared the monopolistic fate of other Yugoslav republics, concerning the media, even while former Yugoslavia existed, and after it had gained independence. It was always possible to publish more in Slovenian media than in the others, and there were always journals which carried texts which were utterly unthinkable for the other environments. For instance, the very first criticism on account of bureaucracy, former Yugoslav army, Titoism... came from Slovenia, and these issues were publicly discussed in various Slovenian media. In some of them more, in some less, but altogether much more and primarily much sooner than in any other Yugoslav republic. The situation was similar after Slovenia became independent. There were no purges in the official media (television, radio, the press), there were no banning, no closing down of newspapers, as in some cases in Serbia or Croatia.

    But, all this does not mean that Slovenian media are immune to political pressures or meddling with the editorial policy. The only difference is that, in Slovenia so far, this was done in a more sophisticated way.

    The most conspicuous example of manipulation with the public is national television. Were by any chance Slovenia in a somewhat more difficult situation, and had not almost every other house cable tv of satellite programs, consequences of one-sided, often false or simply witheld information, would have been disastrous, considering the well-known influence of television on the public. But, despite the fact that at least Croat, Austrian and Italian television are watched every day in Slovenia (because of their vicinity), and the programs from all over the world, people still watch national television the most and believe Right after it had become independent, television got a new management. Since, at the time, the coalition called Demos won the elections, and since it gathered everyone - from the Democrats to the nationalistic rightists - in its ranke, representatives of Demos were given control of Television Slovenia. Instead of the previous, professional editors, new were appointed, whose main merit was that they were politicall apt. According to the criteria of the Demos, of course. It is true, that none of the journalists who did not share political views with the ruling Demos were not discharged, but they were pushed to the margins and constantly prevented to work according to their own conscience. New elections followed, the Demos was defeated, but television remained in its hands, and not in the hands of all its member parties, but miraculously in the hands of its extremist rightists who flirted with nationalism and fascism even. They also employed an army of young, extremely ambitious, but not sufficiently educated and experienced young journalists, who immediately fell under the influence of their bosses, so that the program has become worse than ever. Politically, the chief person for Slovenian television is Janez Janca, the leader of the opposition, while the President of the state, Milan Kucan, and Prime Minister, Janez Drnovsek, are the enemies of the people for them. The once highly esteemed and known journalists are out of favour now, and even when they succeed in making a correct program or contribution, they immediately become targets of criticism, and are removed from the program again for some time.

    This is all possible because state television has no competition. Although there are many local stations, they can never compete with the "great" TV because of the costs of making a program. So far, there were several attempt to unite or link these local stations in any way, but they failed, mainly because of the lack of money and a real conception. Therefore, all these stations are mainly commercial and with no political stance. It seems that things will change after all, because a merger of the strongest private station, Kanal A with the Ljubljana MTV, Maribor local television and allegedly another private channel from Primorska has been announced. These associated stations would cover most of the territory of Slovenia. According to what was possible to learn, the project is supported by American capital and the political influence of the ruling Liberal Democrats of Janez Drnovsek. Implementation of the project is expected to start in autumn, as a true competition to state television, which is now in the hands of the rightist opposition.

    The opposition, with its influence and money (mainly collected among the Slovenian political emigrants in South America, and the Church even) penetrated into the formerly main Slovenian newspaper, Delo. The journal is now controlled by a small group of supporters of Janez Jansa, who at the time of Jansa's attempt to take over power (before he was removed from the post of the Defense Minister), created the necessary climate for such a thing. But, this is literally just a small group in Delo which is opposed by the majority of other the employees. Re-election of the management is expected to take place in the course of February. So far, every four years, the entire staff voted for their editor-in-chief. Should this happen this year as well, the present editor, Dobrsek, does not stand much of a chance to survive, because journalists from Delo wish to regain respectability their journal used to enjoy. However, this will depend on the new owners of Delo. Namely, Delo has just received a permit for privatization. The state will certainly have a significant share, because the journal was a republican medium for decades, into which the former republic of Slovenia had once invested a lot of money. The possibility to invest will be given to the present and the former employees of Delo, too, so that it is still a mystery what the outcome will be for this journal. Unofficially, one can learn that the opponent to the present editor Dobrsek will the well-known and highly respected journalist Mojca Drcar-Murko, who has spent most of her working days in Delo where she is still employed, and who was a candidate for the Slovenian minister of the exterior.

    Due to the oriented Delo, two and a half years ago, a daily, Republika, was founded, whose orientation was marked as the policy of the leftist centre, or perhaps rather of a Social-Democratic provenance. The money for it had come from successful entrepreneurs of Slovenian nationality from Italy who were expected to finance the journal for at least three years. At the end of the second year of its publication, though, the political relations between Slovenia and Italy became strained, although they used to be very good at the time of the foundation of the journal. But, after Mr. Berlusconi came to the head of the Italian Government, the situation significantly changed. Republika is being published together with Primorski dnevnik, a Trieste journal of the Slovenians from the coastal region in Italy, meaning that most of the pages in both journals are the same, and the only difference is in the pages which cover local developments. That is how Republika and Primorski list shared the expenses, until Italy decided to withdraw the aid to the Slovenian minority, and therefrom the aid that was used for printing both the journals. Then they blocked the Slovenian Agricultural Bank in Italian Gorizia and introduced close control over the Trieste Slovenian Bank and blocked a large portion of the money allocated for these journals. Since then, Republika has become interesting for Slovenian politics. Two factions fought for it - one which is close to President Kucan, and the other from the circles of Liberal Democrats. On Thursday, February 9, the management of the firm discharged the Editor-in-Chief, Marjan Sedmak, who is also the President of the Association of Journalists of Slovenia and a very respectable journalist, and appointed Mile Setinc, the former director of the Government office for information to the post, who is an experienced journalist close to the leaders of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.

    For some time now, the rightist journal Slovenec, has also been "on sale". It was founded immediately after Slovenia gained independence. Just like Republika, Slovenec is struggling with small circulation, although it is of a completely the opposite political orientation. Namely, the readership in Slovenia is comparatively conservative and used to reading the "main" journal, Delo, and that is mostly what it buys. Delo satisfies the taste of the rightist oriented readers, as well. Slovenec was, and still is, mostly financed with the money of the Slovenian Catholic Church, and Slovenian political emigrants from Argentina. At first, it was inclined towards Christian Democracy, but since it joined Liberal Democrats of Janez Drnovsek and Kocijancic's associated list of Slocial Democrats in the Government, its owners offer more support and therefrom more space in the newspaper to the extreme rightist and nationalistic wing of Janez Jansa and some minor parties which support him. Christian Democrats have lately tried to reestablish their influence in the paper, but they have not succeeded in it yet.

    Finally, there are two more local newspapers with large circulation. It is Ljubljanski dnevnik and a Maribor paper called Vecer. Both journals have held a central political position for long, without major deviations, but due to the increasingly aggressive policy of rightist nationalism, they turned more to the left. Dnevnik has managed to maintain this course till the day, although people of a contrary political stance are sneaking into its journalistic ranks, while the editorial policy of Vecer has for some time struggled to regain its balance, because of the attempts to turn it to the right which have become more frequent lately. Similar is happening to the once very popular weekly Mladina which seems to be completely losing its political profile, and therefore its readers as well. Since the rightist opposition has penetrated into its staff, Mladina's circulation has significantly dropped. This is normal, because Mladina was always known for being "revolutionary", merciful neither to the right nor to the left, and nowadays it is quite frequently the victim of the influence of daily politics.

    To summarize things, it should be said that never has the scene in the sphere of the media been so unstable and that the following months will be very important for the freedom of the press here, and therefore, for development of democracy. The extent of political parties meddling with editorial policy of certain media will show the level of their democracy.

    Janja Klasinc