Slovak Broadcaster Sacks Reporters – Subverts Freedom Of Press

Andrej Kiska, Journalist Jan Kuciak, Robert Fico, Slovakia

Bratislava, April 28 (CTK) – The management of the Slovak public radio and television broadcaster RTVS started getting rid of its external reporters who signed an open letter criticising the situation in the news desk and the broadcaster in general, the website of the Slovak daily Smer writes.


In early April, 59 reporters, or about one third of the team, complained about a tense atmosphere in the public broadcaster and a lack of trust in their superiors.


“We do not believe that our superiors are able to protect the news editors against strong pressures from the outside,” the reporters wrote. They said the management forced them to make reports “balanced” by giving space to people who are close to disinformation media, are no experts or have a political ambition.


RTVS director Jaroslav Reznik dismissed the criticism. He said those who complained were young, inexperienced radicals.


Reznik was pushed to the post by the ruling Smer-Social Democracy and the Slovak National Party (SNS).


Parliamentary media committee head Dusan Jarjabek (Smer) said there was nothing wrong in the RTVS.


Sme writes on its website that the RTVS management did not extend cooperation with reporters Matus Banovic, Kristian Cekovsky, Matus David and Jana Masarova who contributed to the new reporting every day. Masarova worked for RTVS for five years, Sme writes, adding that the management did not explain why the contracts were not extended.


RTVS will not comment on its internal affairs, its spokeswoman Erika Rusnakova said.


RTVS news editor Jozef Matej said he can see no reason why the cooperation with the four reporters ended. It was a loss for the broadcaster, he said.


Sme writes that radio reporter Jana Matkova and programme manager Nikola Bajanova left in protest against the management, two other reporters ended and programme head Tibor Buza planned to leave as well.


The Reporters without Borders international organisation called on Slovak authorities to stop interfering in the functioning of the public broadcaster. It said Reznik undermined freedom of press instead of supporting it at a time when Slovak media are facing a tension.


In late February, investigative journalist Jan Kuciak, who dealt with ties between politics, business and the mafia, and his fiancee were murdered, which led to a political crisis. Massive demonstrations against the government were held, demanding transparent investigation of the case and early election. The public protests resulted in a reconstruction of the government and resignations of prime minister Robert Fico, interior minister Jan Kalinak, his successor Tomas Drucker (all Smer) and police president Tibor Gaspar.