March 18, 2024

18.03.2024 – SEEMO Stands in Solidarity with Slovak Public Service Media

The South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) expresses concern over the recent developments concerning Radio and Television Slovakia (RTVS –, the public service broadcaster in Slovakia. Amidst proposed legislative changes, SEEMO echoes the sentiments raised by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU – regarding the potential threat to RTVS’s editorial independence.

On last Friday, 15 March 2024, thousands of Slovaks protested against the government’s plan to reform public broadcasting . Several months ago the Members of the European Parliament presented worried voices about the planned restructuring of Radio and Television of Slovakia and regret the decision of Prime Minister Fico and some government officials to no longer talk to key media outlets.

According to the proposed changes the intention is to separate the public broadcaster RTVS into two entities, separating radio and television. The proposed draft law, if enacted, would introduce significant alterations to the structure and governance of RTVS. Under this legislation, RTVS would be re-branded as Slovak Television and Radio (STaR), allowing the government to overhaul the composition of RTVS’s governing council, including the removal of the current members, including the Director General. The reconstituted council would be composed of individuals appointed by both the Ministry of Culture and the government coalition-controlled Parliament, granting them extensive powers over the appointment and dismissal of key personnel within the broadcaster. The new seven-member council would select its new director, although the current one has a parliamentary mandate until 2027.

In response to these developments, Noel Curran, the Director General of EBU, voiced grave concerns, labeling the proposed changes as a thinly veiled attempt to bring RTVS under state control. Such a move, Curran emphasized, would represent a dangerous regression for democracy and freedom of expression in Slovakia. Independent public service media, he stressed, are fundamental pillars of a healthy society, providing citizens with diverse perspectives and holding those in power accountable.

Furthermore, the proposed legislation raises serious questions about Slovakia’s adherence to international standards and forthcoming EU regulations. As EBU reported “The proposed law would be in breach of various international standards. For example, the Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec (2012)1 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on public service media (PSM) governance states that ‘the first priority for public service media must be to ensure that their culture, policies, processes, and programming reflect and ensure editorial and operational independence’.”

Additionally, the EU’s European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), set to come into force soon, explicitly mandates safeguards to protect the independence of public service media providers.

SEEMO stands firmly with RTVS employees and journalists facing these challenges to their professional autonomy. SEEMO supports EBU’s calls for the Slovak authorities to reconsider the proposed legislation, engage in open public debate, and align with international standards and forthcoming EU laws. Upholding the principles of a free press and independent public service media is essential for the preservation of democratic values and the promotion of informed citizenship in Slovakia.

As Slovakia navigates these critical junctures, SEEMO remains committed to monitoring the situation closely and advocating for the protection of media freedom and editorial independence in Slovakia.

SEEMO is also alarmed about the financial independence of the public radio and TV in Slovakia, especially after in July 2023 the licence fee was abolished by the former government and replaced by a government grant. As result also the annual of the public radio and TV was reduced.

Finally also some other steps have negative influence on the public radio and TV, like the closure of the gallery of Slovak Radio, a cultural area within the broadcaster’s building.

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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