AEJ condemns attacks on Slovakian journalists amid concerns over new state media law

The Association of European Journalists (AEJ) strongly condemns the ongoing verbal assaults by government officials in Slovakia against journalists from the public broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS).

Deputy speaker of the Slovak Parliament, ĽubošBlaha (SMER-SD), has recently indirectly threatened political debate TV presenter Marta Jančkárová with termination from her position at RTVS. Slovak prime minister Robert Fico (SMER-SD) further perpetuated personal attacks against TV presenters during a press conference held by the ministry of culture.

These personal attacks are deeply troubling, especially in light of impending legislative changes that threaten freedom of expression and the public’s right to access information, not only on public television but across all electronic media platforms operating in Slovakia.

AEJ stands in solidarity with the employees and associates of RTVS. The Coordination Committee of the RTVS Employees’ and Associates’ Initiative has announced a protest on April 25, 2024, where employees will don black attire as a symbolic gesture against the suppression of RTVS and the infringement upon freedom of speech.

Individuals are encouraged to show support for “Black Thursday” by sharing photos on social media. This protest marks the beginning of a series of planned actions by RTVS employees and collaborators.

AEJ urges the Slovak government to retract the proposed law aimed at dismantling RTVS. We view the abolishment of RTVS and its replacement with a new public institution, Slovak Television and Radio (STVR), as a deliberate move by the government to oust the current director, ĽubošMachaj, and exert political control over the broadcaster.

Despite widespread criticism and pressure from both domestic and international journalistsorganisations, the Slovak government persists in undermining public service media, which is contradictory to the principles outlined in the European Freedom of the Media Act.

The new draft STVR Bill, set to be discussed by the government, raises concerns regarding political interference. The proposed STVR Council, responsible for appointing and dismissing the director of STVR, will be composed of members with significant government influence, undermining the broadcaster’s independence. While the original draft law included a Programme Council for content oversight, the revised draft replaces it with an Ethics Commission, housed within the STVR Council. This shift is seen as an attempt to control editorial independence under the guise of ethical considerations.

AEJ is apprehensive that the proposed STVR Ethics Commission may serve as a platform for interest groups to stifle the creative freedom of STVR employees based on subjective opinions. The establishment of this committee represents a veiled attempt to interfere with the broadcaster’s editorial autonomy.

We would like to remind, that there is currently a functional ethics commission directly in RTVS, that the legality of broadcasting is controlled by the RTVS Council and the Media Services Council. RTVS has not been sanctioned in recent years for the content of its news and journalism broadcasts only minimally and is, according to public opinion polls, the most trusted Slovak broadcaster

IsaiaTsaousidou, President of AEJ International

Kyriakos Pierides, Media Freedom Special Representative of AEJ International

Ivan Brada, President of AEJ Slovak Section

Tibor Macak, Vice President of AEJ International

Julius Lorincz, former President ofAEJ Slovak Section

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