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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

    THU, 27 MAR 1997 00:00:27 GMT

    Crisis of Printed Media

    POLITICAL SCHEMES DESTROYING THE PRESS

    AIM Ljubljana, 19 March, 1997

    ************************************************************** The example of shutting down of the newspaper Republika indicates a serious crisis of the media in Slovenia. The greatest portion of responsibility for it belongs to politics (of all political parties) which seems - isn't it rather interesting?! - to be the cruelest towards the media with similar orientation. This means that ruin of certain media is accelerated or indifferently watched by those very same people who had stimulated their foundation. ****************************************************************

    It seems that Slovenian independent newspaper Republika yesterday definitely ended its almost five-year old life. From November 1992 until the beginning of February 1997, it was published as a daily. The daily Republika was shut down due to a lack of readiness of its sponsors from the Slovenian economy to continue co-financing of the newspaper, and the foundation capital of the majority owner, the private business group Alpe Adria, could not meet the increasing expenses of publication of the daily any more. Because of that the publisher decided to shut down the daily newspaper and to continue publishing Republika as a weekly with the minor part of the editorial team. Four issues of the weekly which dealt with a serious analysis of developments in domestic and foreign policy and economy were published, and then two and a half days before publication of the fifth issue, the weekly was prevented from publication by the distributor called Door to Door with its sudden decision not to distribute the journal any more. The distributor, by the way, still owes the publisher of Republika big money it had made by distributing the daily Republika. As it was possible to learn, a sudden decision of a potential co-owner not to paticipate in the project had contributed to this decision. In the statement for the public, the publisher and the editorial team wondered whether this was purely unintentional and a mere chance?!

    All things considered, it is not, and the case of Republika may be the starting point for describing the current situation of the Slovenian press. The Slovenian press - with the exception of daily newspapers founded during the previous single-party system and yellow press - is in a serious crisis. A few months ago, the rightist daily Slovenec was shut down, Republika followed, and journals Nasi razgledi, Mladina and Mag are in a big crisis. Although it is very difficult to prove it, politics is behind all that. Both in opening of new journals and in shutting them down. And the most interesting fact is that journals are not destroyed by structures which are opposed to the political orientation of these journals, but on the contrary - by structures which founded or supported them. It seems illogical at first sight, but that is how it is. Let us begin with the magazine Slovenec. The journal was founded by Christian Democrats partly with the money of its members, but more with the money of Slovenian political emigrants from Argentina and other countries, as well as with the money of some entrepreneurs loyal to the party. Andrej Rot, a young Slovenian emigrant who had spent his whole life in Argentina, was nominated its editor-in-chief. Frome there he had brought "strange" habits about objective press which were not at all to the liking of the leaders of Christian Democrats, so Rot had to leave. Many came and went after him, and none of them were to the liking of rightist parties (primarily Christian Democrats and Jansa's so-called Social Democrats) which held the journal firmly in their hands. Slovenec in the end ran into great debts which nobody - not even the other right oriented politicians and entrepreneurs - were ready to pay any more. That is how this journal was shut down due to incapability and indolence of its political like-minded persons.

    Similar is the case with Republika. It was founded on the idea of left and central left Slovenian political forces in Slovenia, Italy and Austria (Slovenian minority organizations). The main objective was connection of Slovenian national, political, economic and cultural interests in these three countries. Despite its left orientation, the journal has never had a clear party characteristic. Due to its left orientation it was ignored by the rightists, while the United List of Social Democrats (the left) and the Liberal Democracy of Slovenia (the centre) constantly disputed about who the journal belongs to, so that the journal actually never got any political support at all.

    It paid for its independent editorial policy with its life. Indeed, it was people from the ruling Liberal Democracy of Slovenia and the United List who contributed the most to its death. The Slovenian public is mostly not aware of it, but it is quite clear to the well informed journalists. Political independence of the media is obviously too expensive even for Slovenia. If you have no real godfather, and no financial inheritance from the previous regime, you have no chance to survive. While in the neighbouring Croatia, the destiny of a journal can be learnt from the presidential platform, and while in Serbia the authorities directly take over the journals they do not think fit, in Slovenia this is done with more subtlety, but the result is the same. Although Slovenian authorities are trying by all means to show to the public that they are interested in the destiny of media, in this, like in some other fields, they gladly apply the practice of 'Laissez faire passer'. Following this principle, they have done nothing for years to introduce a special fund from the budget intended for the assistance to minor media which are important in establishing balance in the sphere of the media in a society, in other words ensure its pluralization. All the states of the European Union have such a fund, even the richest and the highly developed ones. Since the Slovenian authorities do not consider this important, Slovenia is going back to the time of self-governing socialism in which there were two or three journals which were believed to be sufficient for informing the public. With such strategy in the sphere of the media, becoming part of Europe will not be too glamorous.

    PETRA VOVK, AIM