Sun, 21 April 2024

Slovak RTVS faces “state capture”

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Statement by AEJ International

The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) expresses profound concern about the development of the Slovak media landscape. For several months now, government officials, led by Prime Minister Robert Fico, have been selecting which media outlets with which they are – or are not – willing to communicate, but have also been attacking specific journalists working for the public.

It is suspected that a number of politicians in the ruling coalition are motivated by personal interests in matters on which journalists under attack are reporting, and not by the public interest. This is a violation of  the public’s right to such information, and threatens the constitutional right to freedom of expression.

Ľuboš Machaj – veteran director under threat

For several months now the AEJ has tracked the efforts of the ruling coalition to turn the national public broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) into a state media house under the control of ruling coalition politicians. The latest proposal by the Minister of Culture Martina Šimkovičová is clearly aimed at replacing RTVS director Ľuboš Machaj. This is demonstrated by the fact that it is only a formal (pretended) abolition of RTVS and its replacement by a “new” entity with an almost identical name, Slovak Television and Radio.

It will, however, be a direct successor to RTVS. We consider such changes to the law in a key public service medium to be a threat to democracy. Renaming a company and replacing it with a similar name are more familiar from the environment of companies involved in unfair economic activity than from the environment of a transparent public service in one of the Member States of the European Union.

Šimkovičová – gunning for head of TV and Radio?

Ruling coalition politicians in Slovakia make no secret of the purpose of the legislative change. The AEJ Int. sees the new law as a direct threat to the public interest and its right to strong, independent public service media. The proposed new principles for electing members of the controlling bodies of the proposed Slovak Television and Radio arm politicians with a tool to control both programming and content. The draft law also mentions a new programme board that will oversee Slovak Television and Radio programmes that are broadcast in the “public interest”, which can also be described as a normalisation of the public service in the sense of pre-1989 Czechoslovakia.

Politicians in the ruling coalition from the Slovak National Party and Smer-SD party who publicly and  repeatedly attack specific journalists and RTVS programmes that they do not like. We are therefore  concerned too that, once they take control of television, specific politicians will settle accounts with specific journalists.

Andrej Danko, the SNS chairman and candidate for President of the Slovak Republic, has said that he does not , for example, like the only investigative programme, Reporters.

The programme recently covered the cases of senior Slovak National Party officials. Prime Minister Robert Fico and other representatives of the Smer-SD party have not spared personal and public criticism against journalists of other RTVS programmes, including the moderators of political debates and its foreign correspondents.

We are therefore expressing our solidarity with the Slovak media, with the journalists of RTVS, and with the Slovak public. It is not in the public interest for RTVS to become a subordinate organ of the government and parliament.

Isaia Tsaousidou, AEJ President 

Edward Steen, AEJ Secretary-General

Kyriakos Pierides, AEJ Media Freedom Representative

Ivan Brada, President of AEJ Slovak Section,

Tibor Macak, AEJ Vice-President 

Július Lorincz, former President of AEJ Slovak Section

 

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