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Parliament changes public media by act. “The sole purpose of this law is to take control.”

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This is a repetition of what we know from Poland. Populists target the state media because they claim that these media are biased against them and that they are too mainstream. The Slovak Parliament approved changes to public radio and television. The opposition and civic organizations say briefly: it is the organization of the media.

“Free media” is a cry of opposition to the government's attempt to take control of the public media. For years, they have been considered the most trusted source of information in Slovakia. The authorities want to turn them into their propaganda mouthpiece.

– They decide about us without us, despite our reservations, not only ours, says Sonia Gyarfasova, a journalist at the Slovak public television RTVS.

International organizations fighting for freedom of speech also have reservations. Reporters Without Borders is directly calling on the recently elected president of Slovakia, Peter Pellegrini, to veto the law on public television just adopted by the Slovak parliament.

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Reporters Without Borders estimates that “being contrary to EU law, the act carries the risk of transforming public media into a government propaganda tool and is a serious blow to media freedom in Slovakia.”

– For now, when asked whether he will sign the bill or not, the president himself said that he is still considering it and does not want any external pressure or social protests to influence his decision. Simply put, it seems very unlikely that he will veto this bill. Because he is a newly minted president from this political camp – says Dr. Łukasz Lewkowicz from the Institute of Central Europe at the Maria Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin.

“Orbanization” of the Slovak media market

The new law provides for the liquidation of public media known as Radio and Television of Slovakia, i.e. RTVS. Instead, Slovak Television and Radio – STVR is to be established. Where's the point? You can fill this second institution with your own nominees.

– The sole purpose of this law is to take control of the institution through a politicized council, says Zora Jaurova, MP from Progressive Slovakia. – What can the opposition do? We will watch who will be elected to the council, says Roman Michelko, MP from the Slovak National Party.

READ ALSO: Controversial bill passed. The opposition left the room

Protest in Slovakia. Archival videoReuters Archive

While the new law was being adopted, the Slovak opposition left the meeting room. He estimates that the act is the beginning of the “orbanization” of the media market, of which private media are to be the next victims. Their journalists are already reporting cases of unacceptable pressure.

– There have been signals that large commercial and private media in Slovakia have also started to introduce such internal censorship. The victim of this was, among others, the large Markíza television, where one of the well-known journalists running political programs had to leave – says Łukasz Lewkowicz.

According to the narrative of Robert Fico's government, public media should be liquidated because they are becoming less and less objective and there is no balance of opinions.

The May attack on Robert Fico did not change anything in Slovakia

– The hysteria that accompanies the adoption of the law only adds fuel to the fire of polarization in our society, said Martina Simkovicova, Slovakia's Minister of Culture, in parliament.

The May attack on Robert Fico did not change anything in Slovakia – the country is still deeply divided. The populist government has consent among its electorate for radical actions.

– These people do not care about the pillars of democracy such as free media or an independent justice system, because they do not believe that they are really free – says Iveta Radicova, former Prime Minister of Slovakia.

Anti-democratic changes are facilitated by the narrative of some of Fico's entourage, who blame the free media for the attack on him.

Facts about the World TVN24 BiS

Main photo source: Reuters



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