Staff protest as new editor named at public TV web portal

Ljubljana – Jadranka Rebernik, the new editor-in-chief of news programme at TV Slovenija, has appointed Igor Pirkovič as acting editor of the public broadcaster’s web portal MMC. This has invited protest from the staff, who say Pirkovič is biased in favour of the ruling party. Questions are also being raised about the appointment procedure.

Objections against Pirkovič’s appointment have been raised by the staff at the Multimedia Centre (MMC), which operates the popular rtvslo.si web portal, as well the journalists at Radio Slovenija and TV Slovenija.

MMC staff formed their position even before the appointment, based on media reports of the imminent replacement of the current editor Kaja Jakopič with Pirkovič. They find his appointment unacceptable for several reasons.

“This is a journalist whose work on public television is not only openly partisan, but also clearly biased in favour of a particular political party and its leader,” they say.

They understand his appointment as a “way to change the portal’s reporting in the run-up to the election in favour of the ruling coalition, in particular the SDS party, with which which Pirkovič often cooperates”.

The staff also believe that Pirkovič does not have the qualifications needed to run the web portal.

Pirkovič, so far a journalist with TV Slovenija, responded for the STA by saying: “I didn’t know they were the personnel commission.”

Radio Slovenija journalists urged for the appointment to be revoked immediately, saying it was unacceptable for substantive as well as procedural reasons.

“His work goes against the journalist code and professional standards and principles of journalism ethics in RTV Slovenija programmes,” they said.

They noted that under the new MMC implementing rules the opinion on the appointment should have been sought from editor-in-chief of Radio Slovenia One.

Staff at both MMC and Radio Slovenija said the rules were currently being examined by the Constitutional Court as nor the staff or trade unions had been informed of changes to the rules pertaining to the appointment of the MMC portal’s editor.

In addition, changes are in the pipeline to the broadcaster’s articles of association where the post of the MMC editor-in-chief is to be restored.

MMC staff believe all those processes should be completed before any new appointment is made, wondering why the rush at this particular time.

Journalists at TV Slovenija news programme support MMC’s efforts to get back its own editor-in-chief, which they say could be Jakopič as the current acting editor. They said Pirkovič has a clear political profile.

Franci Pavšar, a trade union representative, argued that the appointment procedure was flawed as the current acting editor, Kaja Jakopič, had not been dismissed as she received no decision to that effect.

He said the appointment should have followed the prescribed procedure with a public call for applications, presentation by candidates, on whom opinion is then taken by the MMC manager, editors-in-chief of news programmes at both TV and radio and the staff, none of which happened.

The broadcaster’s leadership said that Jakopič’s term ended with Rebernik’s appointment as TV Slovenija editor-in-chief on 4 March and no specific decision was needed for her dismissal.

Rebernik got endorsement from only roughly 20% of the TV Slovenija staff as the new editor-in-chief.