Matevž Krivic and Simona Zatler analyse the meaning
of the right of correction and right of reply in relation to press
freedom. They both draw attention to the issue of controversial
provisions in Slovene media law and suggest possible solutions.
Matevž Krivic concludes that misunderstanding of the right of
reply and right of correction in Slovenia arises from unfamiliarity
with these institutes of Slovene media law and partly their
illogical naming. In the first chapter the author explains
terminological issues. Slovene “correction/popravek” is called
reply (réponse, Gegendarstellung) in other countries, while
Slovene “reply/odgovor” is a reply intended to protect public,
not private interests. This right, unknown in other media laws,
exceeds both classic (or “external”) and internal freedom of
the press (i.e. rights of editors and journalists with respect
to a medium owner). It is a fragmentary remnant of the former
constitutional right to publish opinions of public importance
which did not survive the breakup of the socialist system.
Slovene “correction/popravek” is, legally and in comparative
terms, somewhere between the stricter, German regulations (a
reply is possible only to factual assertions) and entirely liberal
French regulations (a reply is limited only with regard to extent
and not content). It is closer to the German solution though
- but in a way which tempers rather aptly the excessive hardness
of German approach without yielding too much to French liberalism.
This is evident especially in essential points: a person may
reply to all assertions that have affected him/her (including
opinions), but only by citing “facts and circumstances” that
dispute these assertions.
In the third chapter Matevž Krivic explains how these two rights
are treated in the proposed media law. On the request of the
author, the Ministry of Culture invited media representatives,
journalists and experts to participate in the preparations for
the second reading of the proposed law. This created an opportunity
to place the views in direct confrontation. In the author’s opinion
the resulting solutions are good and acceptable to all concerned.
Simona Zatler begins by pointing out that journalists’ task and
duty is to communicate information or notices in a manner that
ensures that the public is always most adequately informed so
that it can contribute to the management of common issues as
effectively as possible. In order to realise this task, journalists
are allowed to act autonomously and free of external pressures,
but at the same time the very enormity of the responsibility
held by the media legitimises a number of restrictions imposed
upon their activities. Among these restrictions, and one which
seems to have special significance for both journalists and the
media, is undoubtedly their duty to publish a reply under certain
Even though some oppose this restriction claiming that it imposes
an unacceptable burden on the freedom of journalists and the
press, the right of reply or correction is regulated, as a reflection
of freedom of expression, by the legal systems of all European
countries. The author nevertheless emphasises that right of reply
should not aim to become a general right of access to the media.
The definition of the right of reply and correction in Slovenia
is far from uncontroversial. The ambiguities in the Slovene Constitution
and legal system gave rise to a number of controversial issues,
the most hotly disputed being the question of whether right of
reply can still be understood as a right of a public legal nature.
Simona Zatler concludes that right of reply in the public interest
is the heritage of the socialist past. The author does not agree
with the legislator that the right of reply in the public interest
should be included in the new media law because a different solution
would call for changes in the constitution itself, which could
prove to be a long and complex process likely to delay the adoption
of the law.
In author’s opinion arguments for the re-institution of the right
of (public) reply in new social circumstances are equally disputable.
It may therefore prove useful to reconsider the option which
Matevž Krivic pointed out years ago - that we should start the
procedure for constitutional change, and that this right, as
an element of the Slovene legal system, should be harmonised
with a modern understanding of journalistic freedom and freedom
of expression in general. She proposes that Slovenia should establish
an effective mechanism of protecting a balance between freedom
of expression and other human rights. This could be a self-regulating
mechanism accessible to a wider public through which individual
complaints would be solved.