SLOVAKIA: Changes to Slovakia's media law

SLOVAKIA, 01/04/2008

The Vienna-based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), a network of editors, media executives and leading journalists from South East Europe and an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), remains concerned about pending legal changes to Slovakia's media law.

According to information before SEEMO, Slovakia's parliamentary Committee for Culture and the Media on 26 March 2008 recommended that the parliament approve the government's latest draft of the Press Act. SEEMO, which issued a statement regarding the initial version of the Draft Press Act on 23 January 2008, is disappointed that recommendations regarding limitations on the right of reply made by local Slovak media organisations, international non-governmental organizations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) have not been incorporated into the amendments. The obligations prescribed in Sections 7, 8, and 9 of the Press Act fail to conform to the standards articulated by the Council of Europe, would grant politicians limitless access to publicity, and would seriously restrict media independence and editorial autonomy.

SEEMO Secretary General Oliver Vujovic commented, "while I welcome the changes made to previous versions of the law, these simply are not sufficiently far-reaching. The government's refusal to exclude some of the heavily-criticised provisions suggests that the law's real aim is to control Slovakian journalists. I hope Slovakia's parliamentarians will do their part to ensure that the final version of this law is more compatible with international standards and recommendations".

Mr. Vujovic also expressed support for the recent initiative by all five Slovak national dailies, both quality and tabloid, to run blank front pages in protest against the law, noting that the action underscored the need for further amendments to the pending legislation.

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