“No civil organisation pursues the general interest; it pursues a partial interest. If you add it all up, there is still no general interest. From the point of view of a citizen or a user of this institution, this is actually the problem with this type of organisation,” said Dr Gorazd Trpin, a retired Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ljubljana, about the amendments to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act, which “decapitates” the management team of the national media outlet, Radio-Television Slovenia, and brings about a change in the organisation of the Programme Council.
The amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act was adopted by the National Assembly on the 14th of July this year. The law is not yet in force because signatures are still being collected for a subsequent legislative referendum on it. It is known that its amendments were adopted under the urgent procedure without a general discussion in the National Assembly, and the second and third readings of the law were held in the same session, where it was decided that a public debate should be opened on the shows “RTV Slovenia Today and Tomorrow” (“RTV Slovenija danes in jutri”) on the issue of what kind of Radio-Television Slovenia we need and whether the adopted amendment, which significantly affects the management and operation of RTV Slovenia, will be appropriate for its mission.
Prime Minister Robert Golob says that the amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act comprehensively addresses the withdrawal of politics from the management and governance of the institution and restores the autonomy of RTV Slovenia’s employees. He also said that issues related to the financing of RTV Slovenia could only be discussed after the amendment to the Radio-Television Slovenia Act comes into force, once the institutional autonomy and editorial independence of RTV Slovenia will have been guaranteed. According to the Chairman of the Programme Council, Dr Peter Gregorčič, Golob’s response, which was received at the end of a recent meeting, suggests that the financing of the institution is dependent on the change of management.
Nothing will change in terms of the potential for abuse of influence over the national RTV
So, a law is being adopted that will, in a sense, simply put, behead the current leadership team of RTV Slovenia, and only then will other changes come, such as funding and so on. Lawyer Gorazd Trpin, PhD, commented on the matter by going back to the very beginning of the debate on this law, which is still in the process of being adopted because there is a referendum procedure going on at the moment. “The problem is the ease with which some terms are being used, which people do not understand, especially those who are proposing laws. First of all, of course, with depoliticisation, they do not really understand what the term ‘politics’ means,” Trpin pointed out.
According to Trpin, the term “politics” means the process of formulating social goals and, to some extent, the main paths to achieving them. “And without politics, there is no society at all. If there is no politics, we are just a collection of individuals. And, of course, if we look further, politics, where different interests are at stake, also needs social power to pursue these goals.” He pointed out that this is the third phase or the third position that we are actually talking about, which is the abuse of politics because, realistically speaking, it is general politics that is the most legitimate. It is, he says, the only one that actually tests its legitimacy in the elections.
“And now we want to take politics out of the public institution. Why, actually? Why not prevent the abuse of this politics within the institution, assuming, of course, that these abuses, when there will no longer be representatives of general politics in the public institution, but only representatives of partial politics, will no longer exist,” Trpin pointed out, adding that, realistically speaking, if we are talking about this provision or this institute, which is, of course, supposed to replace all of its administrative bodies, nothing will change in terms of the possibilities of abuse of influence on the functioning of the public institution RTV Slovenia.
It is a retreat from the classical policies, over which we have developed control mechanisms
For the first time since Slovenia gained its independence, a Prime Minister came to the studio of Radio-Television Slovenia and announced depoliticisation or change. Regarding this, Trpin said that Golob probably did not fully understand what depoliticisation really means. “Does it just mean a transfer of influence from the structures that actually make up general politics, the National Assembly and so on, institutionally speaking, to certain structures for which we don’t actually know what they are?” In fact, he said, it is not entirely clear how they are formed, who controls them, and so on. “That is to say, if this is depoliticisation, then we have just withdrawn classical politics, over which we have developed control mechanisms, in favour of certain institutions, over which we do not have control mechanisms. With this, we have to assume that these specific organisations act as their individuals on the basis of personal integrity,” Trpin stressed, adding that, realistically speaking, we have big problems with personal integrity in this country. Of course, it is not necessarily in these areas that we will find people with such a high degree of personal integrity. “This is, of course, now questionable – how much better this new system is than the one we already have, to some extent.”
The host of the TV show where Trpin was the guest, Vida Petrovič, pointed out that in one of the older episodes of the show, constitutional lawyer Jurij Toplak, PhD, pointed to a decision of the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled in the case of Hungary and in another case that it is not acceptable to pass a law just to remove, or behead, the leadership of an institution. And this case was actually related to the President of the Supreme Court, which is, in fact, a violation of human rights.
The Programme and Supervisory Boards are being renamed the Radio-Television Slovenia Council, the post of Director-General is being abolished, and a four-member board is being introduced. The Programme Council will no longer have 29 members, but only 17 (six of whom will now be appointed by the staff).
No civil society organisation pursues the general interest
In addition to the fact that the number of employee representatives in the Programme Council is increasing, it is also worth pointing out that the viewers and listeners are now losing their representatives while non-governmental organisations are gaining them. Lawyer Trpin pointed out that no civil organisation pursues a general interest, but instead, they all pursue partial interests. And even if you add them all up, there is still no general interest, and that is the problem with this organisation from the point of view of the citizen or user of this institution. “Of course, it can be questionable. A particular NGO may be directly opposed to my interest, and therefore, I cannot actually enforce it. I’m going to present a bit of an exaggerated example, but let’s say that because a certain NGO representative is on the Programme Council, I’m going to have to listen to something that I actually intimately do not agree with at all and have no possibility of influencing…”
Trpin believes that the conundrum can be solved easily, but that it will take about four years. “Look, the matter is very simple, we are always dealing with institutions and organisations and relationships within them. It’s all about the people,” he stressed, adding that we should start with the people, because we forgot about this part 30 years ago already. In fact, he said, journalism should be restored to its quality and position. “Look, journalism likes to evaluate itself or present itself as the fourth branch of government. We have the legislative and the executive branches of power. These two are, realistically speaking, political and, therefore, subject to the political process, so getting there is not an easy path. The third one is professional power. That is ours, the judicial one. No one can be a judge unless they have a legal education. This part, of course, does not operate on the basis of political processes but on the basis of the integrity of the individual practitioner of this power, the judge and so on. We have a fourth branch, which is journalism, and journalists can only function well on the basis of their integrity. If we start this process, in four years, all these problems that we have today, the disputes, the misunderstandings, and also the politicisation, part of the politicisation, will be removed from this issue,” he stressed, adding that a centre of journalistic excellence should be set up within the public media outlet RTV Slovenia. “This should be the pinnacle of a journalist’s career.”