Slovenia up four spots in World Press Freedom Index
Slovenia has moved four spots up in the latest World Press Freedom Index, published annually by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), to rank 50th among 180 countries.
The step-up means the country is no longer among those deemed problematic as Slovenia again joins countries with a satisfactory situation in journalism, the report shows.
Published on World Press Freedom Day, the 21st World Press Freedom Index shows that "the situation is 'very bad' in 31 countries, 'bad' in 42, 'problematic' in 55, and 'good' or 'fairly good' in 52 countries. In other words, the environment for journalism is 'bad' in seven out of ten countries, and satisfactory in only three out of ten."
Last year, Slovenia ranked 54th and was among the countries considered "problematic", but this year's ranking puts the country again in the group of those with a satisfactory environment for journalism.
Pavol Szalai, head of the RSF's EU and Balkans desk, told Radio Slovenija that the situation in Slovenia was mixed. On the one hand, the new government, which assumed office last year, put a stop to the previous government's hostility towards journalists and is committed to media freedom, but on the other hand, the pressure exerted on public service media goes on, he said.
Touching on the situation at the Slovenian public broadcaster, Szalai pointed out that RTV Slovenija's journalists continue to strike and protest over interference in editorial decisions.
The current government's attempts to make RTV Slovenija more independent have failed, and the head of the government communications office under the previous government has been appointed director of the broadcaster's TV arm, he noted.
Systemic solutions that would improve public media independence have not yet been implemented in Slovenia, Szalai said. Slovenian journalists' safety has improved, but hate speech and online attacks against them remain a problem, he warned.
The Slovenian Culture Ministry said that despite Slovenia's progress in the index, "we cannot be happy", because the situation at RTV Slovenija was still bad due to previous political interfering in the management of the broadcaster. It reiterated its call on the RTV management to step down.
The ministry believes Slovenia made progress mainly because the situation at the Slovenian Press Agency (STA) has normalised after the current government removed the "harmful decree" on piece rate pay which the previous government used to exercise pressure on the agency for almost a year, draining it financially.
The Government Communication Office and the STA reached an agreement on the public service at the end of last year, which raised the STA's funding by more than 10% this year, the ministry noted.
The Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) said it detected no progress in media freedom this year compared to 2022. If the government manages to take over RTV Slovenija politically, the plurality of the media landscape will be significantly reduced, it said.
The ZNP believes the problem of the Slovenian media is unbalanced reporting, which it believes is a result of media monopolies associated with the ruling parties such as that of Martin Odlazek.
The latest index's ranking is topped by Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, Lithuania and Estonia, which make up the best, green-coloured group, while Vietnam, China and North Korea are at the very bottom, ranking 178th, 179th and 180th, respectively.