Slovenia resumes funding news agency after European Union warning

LJUBLJANA (AFP) – The Slovenian government said on Thursday (Jan 14) it had restored the financing of national news agency STA after Brussels warned against any attempt to pressure public media outlets.

STA has come under fire from right-wing Prime Minister Janez Jansa for what he called unfair criticism in its reporting.

“We have authorised the payment” to the agency, a government statement said.

The government announced it was halting money for STA in December after saying management had failed to correctly file accounts.

Later in December, parliament adopted a package of emergency coronavirus measures which included a provision calling for the resumption of STA payments.

However, the government then referred the question to the European Union claiming the funding could breach EU rules on state aid and competition.

The European Commission insisted Monday the nature of the funding meant it did not have to approve the payments and warned all member states against attempts to pressure the media, saying public media “play a special role in the European Union”.

STA was founded in 1990 when the country decided to leave the former Yugoslav federation and it had been receiving two million euros in public funds annually.

Since assuming office in March, Jansa has used his Twitter account to attack media outlets which have questioned his handling of the coronavirus crisis, accusing them of spreading lies and serving opposition interests.

In October, Jansa tweeted that STA was a “national disgrace, an evident abuse of the name it carries” for having given more space to an interview with a musician who criticised the government than to his meeting with close ally Viktor Orban, Hungary’s nationalist prime minister.