Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Slovakia
|Publisher||Committee to Protect Journalists|
|Publication Date||February 1997|
|Cite as||Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1996 - Slovakia, February 1997, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/47c56517c.html [accessed 22 September 2014]|
CPJ repeatedly engaged the Slovak government with concerns about deteriorating press freedom conditions in Slovakia, particularly involving a draft "anti-subversion" amendment to the penal code and a draft press law containing serious restrictions on journalistic freedoms. When CPJ included Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on its "enemies of the press" list for his promotion of the ominous new laws, the Slovak government reacted with outrage. In a meeting with Ambassador to the United States Bronislav Lichardus in May 1996 in Washington, D.C., he assured CPJ that parliamentary debate on the controversial law had been suspended indefinitely, and that the government's Legislative Council was floating a more liberal draft of the press law. In follow-up letters to the government, CPJ voiced continued alarm about the proposed legislation as well as harassment of individual journalists and excessive government interference in state-owned television and radio.
Contrary to these high-level assurances of improvement in law and practice, the speaker of the Slovak parliament in October again introduced the controversial legislation for debate. He indicated that he intended to push the amendment through to protect Slovakia's "national interests" by imposing stiff penalties for the "spreading of false information abroad." The effort seemed motivated largely by fear of demands for autonomy by Slovakia's ethnic Hungarian population.
Government intrusion into the state-owned daily Slovenska Republika prompted 12 journalists to quit their positions in October. They resigned in protest over the recent appointments to top editorial posts at the newspaper of figures directly linked to the ruling party. Tatiana Repkova, editor in chief of the privately-owned Narodna Obroda, was fired by directors and shareholders close to the Prime Minister after erroneous statements about Meciar's health were printed. Repkova had refused to run an apology.
Despite restrictive libel laws, Slovakia's beleaguered but hardy press corps demonstrated its great capacity for hard-hitting investigative journalism in stories exposing official malfeasance, a scandal involving the abduction of the president's son, and the unsolved murder of a police investigator. Nevertheless, some independent reporters, such as Peter Toth of the opposition daily Sme, faced accusations of "slander" against public officials. At year's end, the prosecutor was still investigating the charges in this and similar cases, which had not yet come to trial.
The Slovak government now tolerates foreign investment in the media. And several independent media ventures began operation, although at least one so-called private television channel, nationwide TV Koliba, was said to be backed by people close to the prime minister.