Slovene's Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel has called on his Austrian Counterpart Benita Ferrero-Waldner, to save Radio Dva, the Slovene-language radio station of the southern Austrian province of Carinthia. It went off air a couple of weeks ago, following a nearly six-month struggle to survive - including hunger strikes, staff working without salaries and protests outside the Austrian embassy in Slovenia.
Radio Dva, used to provide 24 hours of news and magazine programs in Slovene for Carinthia's ethnic Slovene minority. But now there is only music. Earlier this year, the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation, the ORF, cut its funding and Radio Dva went off air at the end of June. Alexander Mak, a former presenter and newsreader on Radio Dva, says the community has lost an essential cultural lifeline:
"The languages of ethnic minorities can not be exclusively used in the kitchen or in our homes. Languages must be used and broadcast by the radio and in print media and so on"
More than 10% of Carinthians are ethnic Slovenes. They say it's a constant struggle to keep their language on road signs, and to ensure it is taught in schools. Now it seems their radio has gone as well. Alexander Mak believes the Austrian government has to take responsibility
"In the first line it is Austria's responsibility to support ethnic minorities in Austria, since we are Austrian citizens. We are paying taxes here. I think we are equivalent to all other Austrians from the majority"
A view shared by the Slovene government: The Slovenian Foreign Minister, Dimitrij Rupel has sent a letter to his Austrian counterpart, Benita Ferrero-Waldner asking for her to provide financial help for Radio Dva. But the Foreign Ministry has so far not responded to the request. In a statement, Mrs Ferrero-Waldners spokesperson said the responsibility for radio Dva lies solely with the ORF: Green Party human rights spokesperson, Terezija Stoisits says that's a huge step back for minority rights.
"It means a final end of a standard we already had. Because in the past we had the ORF and the private radio stations. And it is very, very important to have this dual system for minorities and in minority languages in the future."
The future of Radio Dva looks gloomy. The ORF says it's also facing financial difficulties and is unlikely to be able to provide funding for more than 8 hours a day as of 2004. For now Carinthia's Slovenes will have to be content with....music
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