Ljubljana – RTV Slovenija staff went on an hour-long strike on Monday to reiterate their demands for journalistic and editorial autonomy and an end to politicisation of the public broadcaster, while highlighting its role in a democracy. Complaining about the lack of social dialogue, they expect their strike demands to be addressed by 30 May.
They also demand decent working conditions, a clear staffing policy, democratic social dialogue, and withdrawal of all harmful Programme Council decisions.
Should their demands not be addressed by 30 May, they will demand the resignation of TV Slovenija news programme editor-in-chief Jadranka Rebernik, MMC news portal acting editor Igor Pirkovič, Programme Council head Peter Gregorčič and RTV Slovenija director general Andrej Grah Whatmough.
Journalist Helena Milinković, the main shop steward at RTV Slovenija, said they went on strike as the last resort after highlighting irregularities and non-professionalism at the broadcaster for long.
“We’re here for the public, we want the public media to pursue the public interest,” she stressed, adding the staff refused to be divided into left and right journalists.
Marcel Štefančič, who has been recently sacked as the host of the Studio City current affairs show, also addressed the staff who gathered in front of the TV Slovenija headquarters in Ljubljana, as well as in front of the public broadcaster’s regional centres in Koper and Maribor.
He said that before the April elections, TV Slovenija had been taken over by people who had transformed it into “a propaganda election machine”.
Štefančič said it was high time for TV Slovenija to be taken over by people who know their job, and who know, understand and appreciate TV Slovenija.
Speaking on behalf of the MMC portal, Ana Jurc said that since Pirkovič had recently become acting editor, the desk had been on a “self-organising mode”.
She accused Pirkovič of hardly doing his job while at the same time intervening in very specific political topics without explaining any content decisions.
Marta Razboršek, a TV Slovenija reporter, urged the incoming government to draft a bill together with the staff to prevent political interference at RTV Slovenija.
A view that today’s strike is not the end but only the beginning was expressed by Petra Lesjak Tušek, head of the Slovenian Journalist Association (DNS).
She said it was “necessary to depoliticise the public service, which is not in anyone’s service, much less anyone’s servant”.
Support for the strike, organised by the coordination of trade unions at RTV Slovenija, came from Radio Slovenija staff and several trade unions, including the Journalists’ Trade Union, the Health and Social Care Trade Union, the KSJS confederation of public sector unions and one of the two police unions, the SPS.
The latter said the RTV Slovenija management’s actions which interfere with journalistic, editorial and creative autonomy are unacceptable.
It said that all citizens “have recently witnessed the literal dismantling of the public broadcaster and its fundamental mission”.
KSJS head Branimir Štrukelj said the public trade unions supported the staff because they stood up to what is key to a democratic environment – the autonomy of informing the public.
He believes the only way for the management to act constructively is to accept as the core of the strike agreement a provision pledging to provide for autonomy of journalists.
The SVIZ trade union of teachers, led by Štrukelj, said it also supported the staff’s announcement to escalate the strike if no agreement is reached in a week’s time.
Meanwhile, the Slovenian Association of Journalists and Commentators (ZNP) considers the strike unnecessary and the demands for the resignations unjustified, saying the appointments were in accordance with the law and there were no attempts to encroach on journalistic autonomy.
The strikers are defending their acquired privileges and resisting change that is absolutely necessary to step up pluralism and professionalism at RTV Slovenija, the association said in a press release.