SLOVENIA: Environmental NGO smeared over environmental assessment process

(European Civic Forum on CIVICUS Monitor) In February 2019, the Administrative Court invalidated the environmental permit for the construction of a hydropower plant project called HPP Mokrice. The decision is in a response to a complaint filed in December 2018 by the association Društvo za preučevanje rib Slovenije (DPRS – Society for the Study of Fish of Slovenia). The hydropower plant project will be blocked until the Environmental Agency issues a new decision. The investor, the Slovenian hydroelectric power company HESS, had continuously denied DPRS access to information such as studies and monitoring data. DPRS says that the denial of access to these documents prevented them to conduct an effective environmental assessment. The court ruling sparked criticism in the media against DPRS and environmental CSOs in general. Some local journalists questioned the legitimacy of environmental organisations to have a voice on such matters.

For example, CSOs stated that during a discussion, on 29th April 2019, on the national TV news show Odmevi about the termination of the environmental permit for HPP Mokrice waterplant, environmental groups were presented in a “biased” and “inaccurate” way. Particularly, CSO believe that the questions of the presenter contained misleading information on the role of civil society working on environmental issues who also questioned the funding of environmental CSOs. In a response letter to the editor-in-chief of Odmevi, the national platform of NGOs in Slovenia accused the presenter for using “a series of false assertions and insinuations” about the environmental CSOs. They further requested an apology, stating: “We believe that Rosvita Pesek [the presenter of the program] should properly and publicly apologise to viewers and non-governmental organisations for her biased and inaccurate opinions on non-governmental organisations.”