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Slovakia. The controversial public media act adopted. The opposition left the room

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The Slovak parliamentary majority passed a controversial bill eliminating the public media known as Radio and TV of Slovakia (RTVS). The opposition did not take part in the vote and left the meeting room. For years, Slovak public television has been considered the most reliable source of information in this country. The project of changes in the media raises opposition from Slovaks. Many anti-government demonstrations took place on the streets of Bratislava.

On Thursday evening, members of Slovakia's ruling parliamentary majority voted on a controversial bill eliminating the public media known as Radio i TV Slovakia (RTVS). The opposition, which believed that the government was trying to take control of public broadcasters, left the room.

Employees of the liquidated institution protested in front of the parliament building. The opposition left the room after the debate and before the vote; its assessment of the situation is shared by the strike committee of RTVS employees and collaborators.

The Slovak Television and Radio (STVR) is to be established in the place of the liquidated structure.

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Minister of Culture Martina Szimkoviczova, justifying the bill to parliamentarians, claimed that RTVS was gradually losing objectivity and lacked a balance of opinions.

Read also: “Slovakia is in a place where lack of trust serves as a political compass”

Protest on May 2 Radovan Stoklasa/Forum

Liquidation of public media in Slovakia

The STVR Act, like changes in Slovak criminal law, is one of the steps taken by Robert Fico's government that caused a strong conflict between the ruling coalition and the opposition.

The project of changes in public media also provoked repeated anti-government demonstrations. On Thursday afternoon, a protest march of journalists and RTVS employees went from the radio headquarters to the parliament building.

The opposition points out that the RTVS Act is the beginning of the process of “orbanization” of the media market and warns that, similarly to Hungary Private media may also lose their independence. Mentioned in this context is the largest private station, TV Markiza, where a dispute occurred between journalists and the management of the journalism and information editorial office. According to Slovak media, editors of the popular daily “Pravda” also complain about management interference in their work.

Nowakowski: Slovak politics is filled with bad emotionstvn24

Plans to dissolve the public broadcaster

On April 24 this year, the Slovak government approved a controversial draft media law prepared by the Ministry of Culture. It envisages that the existing public broadcaster, Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS), will be replaced by a new entity with a similar name – Slovak Television and Radio (STVR) – which will also involve a change in the management of both broadcasters.

For years, Slovak public television has been considered the most reliable source of information in this country. At the same time, it is often criticized by the ruling coalition, which argues that this medium is biased. The head of the Ministry of Culture, Martina Szimkoviczova, who belongs to the ultranationalist Slovak National Party, claims that the public broadcaster's news programs have become “merely an addition to the ideological and political pressure of private media operating on the Slovak media market.”

Experts comment

The situation of the media in Slovakia and the protests involving thousands of people were discussed on TVN24 BiS by Professor Maciej Kisilowski from the Central European University in Vienna and Jakub Medek from TOK FM.

Kisilowski said that with changes in the media, the government “certainly wants to change the dynamics of the media market in Slovakia, which is very critical of Robert Fico and his government.” – It must be admitted that the initial situation is completely different than, for example, in Hungary, where it has already been completely taken over by Viktor Orban's allies. However, here we have a situation where the media, especially the written media, are rather critical of the government and Fico wants to change that, he commented.

See also: Concerns about media independence in Slovakia

Medek pointed out that “according to both the opposition criticizing this project and analysts, it will clearly allow the government to control the public media.” – Justifying these changes, Prime Minister Fico said directly that currently the public media in Slovakia are in conflict with the government and cannot be objective – added the journalist.

Main photo source: Radovan Stoklasa/Forum

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