The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) called on Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico to reverse a cabinet-wide decision to shut out a national newspaper in retaliation for the newspaper’s unflattering coverage.
Members of Fico’s cabinet announced on 11 May that they would ignore any questions from the newspaper Denník Non the basis of claims that it was reporting in a “tendentious” manner.
The decision was apparently spurred by the newspaper’s inclusion of stickers designed by popular cartoonist Martin “Shooty” Šútovec that mocked Fico’s financial affairs and depicted him as a burglar. In an initial reaction to the stickers, two Denník N reporters who were to accompany Fico to Russia for celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War Two last week were stripped of their accreditation.
The newspaper, according to the government, had joined “opposition political subjects”, causing the cabinet to “not see sense in further communication”.
Ahead of presidential elections in 2014, Fico refused to communicate with journalists from SME. Fico, who first served as prime minister from 2006 to 2010 and again from 2012, had a difficult relationship with the journalists during his first term, when he developed a reputation for verbally attacking journalists as well as accusing them of biased reporting and disseminating lies. He filed numerous lawsuits against newspapers over cartoons, photographs and claims he said were “harmful to national and state interests”.
The press freedom work of the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is supported by the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) project, as part of a grant by the European Commission.