Slovak Government Approves Controversial Public Media Law, Sparking EU Criticism

Slovak government's controversial public media overhaul faces backlash, raising concerns over media freedom and independence in the country.

Israel Ojoko
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Slovak Government Approves Controversial Public Media Law, Sparking EU Criticism

Slovak Government Approves Controversial Public Media Law, Sparking EU Criticism

The Slovak government has approved a new public media law that critics say threatens media freedom in the country.

The proposed changes, which have drawn strong condemnation from the European Union, would replace the current public broadcaster RTVS with a new organization called Slovak Television and Radio (STVR) in June 2024.

Under the new law, STVR's director would be selected by a council whose members are nominated by the Culture Ministry and Parliament. This has raised concerns that the government is seeking to exert greater control over public media. The current RTVS director, Ľuboš Machaj, has a parliamentary mandate until 2027, but would be replaced when the changes take effect.

The plan was drafted by Culture Minister Martina Šimkovičová, who represents the ultra-nationalist Slovak National Party, a member of the coalition government. It has faced widespread opposition from RTVS employees, journalists, media freedom groups, opposition politicians, and the European Commission.

Why this matters: The proposed media law changes in Slovakia are seen as part of a broader trend of governments in Central and Eastern Europe seeking to tighten control over public media. The EU has expressed serious concerns that the move could undermine media independence and pluralism in the country.

Thousands have rallied in the capital, Bratislava, to protest the government's plans. The European Broadcasting Union stated that the initial proposal was "without a doubt" in breach of the European Act on Freedom of the Media. Critics worry that under populist Prime Minister Robert Fico, whose leftist Smer party won elections in 2022 on a pro-Russian platform, Slovakia will abandon its pro-Western course and follow the path of Hungary under Viktor Orbán.

In response to the backlash, the government has watered down some aspects of the initial bill, but opponents remain unsatisfied. They argue the changes still represent a serious threat to the independence of public media in Slovakia. The European Commission has called on the government to strengthen the independent governance and editorial independence of the country's broadcast media.

Key Takeaways

  • Slovak govt approved controversial overhaul of public broadcaster RTVS.
  • New law would replace RTVS with STVR, whose director is govt-appointed.
  • Critics say changes threaten media freedom and independence in Slovakia.
  • Proposal faces widespread opposition, including from EU, journalists, and public.
  • Govt has watered down initial bill, but critics say changes still pose threat.