January 10, 2024

10.01.2024 – Slovakia’s Media under Threat

Slovakia is witnessing a troubling resurgence of threats against press freedom, bringing to the forefront concerns about the state of media in the country.

Almost six years after the shocking murder of journalist Ján Kuciak, who had been investigating corruption linked to Slovakia’s officials, the return to power of former Prime Minister Robert Fico has raised red flags.

Ján Kuciak, born on 17 May 1990, and murdered on 21 February 2018, was a dedicated Slovak investigative journalist. Employed as a reporter for the news portal Aktuality.sk, Kuciak’s journalistic focus centered primarily on uncovering instances of tax fraud involving several business figures with ties to high-ranking Slovak politicians. Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, fell victim to an assassination on 21 February 2018, within their residence in Veľká Mača, Galanta District, Slovakia.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico resigned on 15 March 2018, after weeks of public protests in the country over the killing of the journalist.

Back in power, following the elections on 30 September 2023, Fico took a drastic step by cutting off communication with four media outlets Aktuality.sk (https://www.aktuality.sk/), TV Markíza (https://www.markiza.sk/), SME (https://www.sme.sk/), and Denník N (https://dennikn.sk/). The prime minister accused these outlets of failing to provide truthful, comprehensive, and timely information.

On 4 December 2023 the government decided to reduce the funding of Rozhlas a televízia Slovenska (RTVS), the country public broadcaster, from planned 0.17% of GDP according to a parliament decision from June 2023 to “at least” 0.12%. The government decision of reduction of the state contribution means 55 Million EUR less for the public broadcaster.

The relation between Fico and journalists was always bad in the past. There were various pressures on journalists during the previous administrations of Fico when SEEMO many times reacted. Also the language Fico is using speaking about journalists and media was always problematic. For example Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico told in November 2016 journalists they were “dirty, anti-Slovak prostitutes”. According to media reports Fico said allegedly 2019 that “Slovak media represent the biggest threat to democracy.”

There is a general decline in trust in media outlets in Slovakia, plummeting to 37%, according to a 2023 study by the Globsec (https://www.globsec.org/), a non-governmental organisation based in Bratislava. Globsec study is published online: https://www.globsec.org/sites/default/files/2023-05/GLOBSEC%20Trends%202023.pdf

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is worried about media developments in Slovakia. SEEMO emphasizes the importance of an unrestricted media environment and urges the Slovakian government to uphold the principles of a free and independent press, vital for a healthy democracy. We stand in solidarity with journalists facing such challenges and stress the need for a robust commitment to journalistic integrity. SEEMO will continue to monitor the situation in Slovakia closely.

South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) is a regional non-governmental, non profit network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in Southeast, South, East and Central Europe. SEEMO members are in Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Moldova (with the territory of Transdnestria), Montenegro, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Türkiye / Turkey, Ukraine and Uzbekistan. Austria, Italy, Vatican and San Marino have a special status in SEEMO. SEEMO has over 3000 individual members, and additional media as corporate members.

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