Slovakia: public broadcaster in danger?

In Slovakia, Robert Fico's government has presented a draft law for the reform of the public broadcasting organisation RTVS which has triggered fierce criticism. RTVS is to be renamed Slovak Television and STaR and the supervisory bodies would in future be subordinate to parliament and the Ministry of Culture. RTVS Director General Ľuboš Machaj said he felt reminded of the times of communist censorship. Commentators also voice concern about press freedom in the country.

Open/close all quotes (SK) /

Two worlds collide talks of the return of censorship:

“When Culture Minister Šimkovičová came to [public broadcaster] RTVS on Tuesday, she clarified the question of power and the intention behind the takeover of the institution. Two completely different worlds collided in her conversation with RTVS director Ľuboš Machaj. On the one hand, the world of professional, independent and impartial journalism in the public interest. On the other, a world full of conspiracies, lies, endless stupidity, vile vindictiveness and collaboration with Vladimir Putin's regime. ... Fico's government comes with real censorship. Because it will be the state that determines and controls what the media can and can't report on. This is a war against freedom.”

Hospodárske noviny (SK) /

Traditional state television on the way

Politicians have always tried to influence the media, Hospodárske points out:

“The Slovakian media, which will operate under the label STaR in future, won't be able to function any differently from traditional state television. And as soon as there's a change of government, STaR will also change. Quickly and without complaints. Our 'public media law' has always been very questionable. Politicians have always somehow kept the television and radio broadcasters in check. To a large extent, it all depended on the cleverness, lobbying skills and cunning of the TV bosses.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Influence already tangible

Slovakia's most successful private broadcaster, TV Markíza, is already feeling the consequences of political pressure, notes Lidové noviny:

“Long before the parliamentary elections, Markíza was already being boycotted by Fico's Smer party, which accused it of biased coverage. But in the last few weeks Markíza's reporting has changed significantly. In the main news programme, which for a long time was the most-watched in Slovakia, reports on sensitive political issues have suddenly decreased. Unpleasant questions for politicians from the governing parties have been replaced by lifestyle and animal topics. ... This may have something to do with the owner of the TV channel wanting to maintain good relations with the government.”