The Guest Blog

In a recent article entitled ‘Journalists sound alarm over press freedom in Europe‘, wrote that in Slovakia there are marked tensions between journalists and government. That’s true – most notably the tension between Prime Minister Robert Fico and private media.

The current Slovak government is everything but press-friendly. The past case of journalist Martin Klein is serious but, in my opinion, irrelevant nowadays. There are other problems in Slovakia this time – fundamental ones.

During last week’s press conference, PM Robert Fico said certain media “behave like streetwalkers”, accusing them of prostituting themselves “for the money of pension funds”. He also gave the names of ‘sinners’: the ‘SME’ newspaper, ‘Pravda’ newspaper and the TV channel ‘TA3’.

Fico specifically accused ‘SME’ of lying, misreporting and “opposing the government rather directly”. He added: “Such baloney and such lies are often published in your newspaper and it is unending.” ‘SME’ is the biggest opinion-shaping newspaper in Slovakia and often criticises the actions of the current government (for example, Fico’s war against the afore-mentioned pension funds).

According to the Slovak PM, freedom of speech is not at stake. He pointed out that the “pluralism of opinions” is threatened, making his reasons clear: ‘SME’ and other independent media. He also promised that the government would fight to introduce a strict media bill in order to prevent the press from acting “unacceptably”. But a draft of this bill was criticised by the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), whose press freedom representative Miklos Haraszti expressed concern that it would attack the freedom of speech.

Robert Fico has been critical of the media since he was inaugurated as prime minister in 2006. It is customary for him to criticise the media and accuse them of prejudice and misreporting during briefings, press conferences and other public events.

The political party of Prime Minister Fico, SMER-SD, is a candidate for membership of the PES/PSE group in the European Parliament. In October 2006, the PES revoked its candidacy due to governmental cooperation with the nationalistic Slovak National Party (SNS). Nevertheless, since February 2008, SMER-SD has again been on the road to full membership of the PES. In my opinion, European left-oriented leaders and politicians should take into consideration not only the cooperation of the PM with other partners, but also his attitude to media and the value of press freedom.

Please click here for the video of Prime Minister Fico accusing ‘SME’.

Please click here for my blog on the ‘SME’ newspaper website.

This post in Slovak.

Submitted by Michal Hudec.

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