Calls mounting for resignations over yesterday’s TV election debate

Ljubljana – Calls for the resignation of the director general of public broadcaster RTV Slovenija and TV Slovenija editor-in-chief are mounting after Thursday’s election debate turned sour with several opposition leaders leaving after some of the participants accusing each other of past mistakes and after the host seemed to lost control of debate.

The first to call for director general Andrej Grah Whatmough and editor-in-chief Jadranka Rebernik to immediately resign were staff at TV Slovenija, the broadcaster’s TV arm.

They distanced themselves from the final election debate on TV Slovenija, arguing it failed to meet even the minimum of standards befitting a public broadcasting service.

“Journalists are distancing ourselves from such a programme, so ill-prepared and so ill-hosted, and would like to apologise to the viewers,” journalist Igor E. Bergant wrote on behalf of the staff earlier in the day.

The TV staff were now joined by their colleagues from other RTV Slovenija sections, including staff at Radio Slovenija, regional centre Radio Koper and MMC news portal, as well as by the broadcaster’s in-house trade union, the national Trade Union of Journalists, and the Slovenian Association of Journalists.

In a joint statement, they say the debate amounted to violation of professional journalist and ethical standards and the law on RTV Slovenija, while being unworthy of a public TV and its staff.

They see it as yet another attempt at dismantling and subjugating RTV Slovenija, its editorial autonomy and institutional independence.

They accuse the leadership of interfering in programmes arbitrarily, of appointing editors without taking into account the staff’s opinion, or threatening with terminating employment contracts over views that are not to its liking.

In doing so, the leadership is being assisted by the programming council, the supervisory council and some individuals, the statement reads.

It moreover notes that RTV Slovenija’s leadership and management are legally bound to the public and the public interest rather than anyone or anything else.

The statement call for an immediate return to professional standards and for engaging staff who know how to make television, which the broadcaster has, “but have been sidelined in the name of servility to politics”.