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Mass Protests Sweep Slovakia Against Government’s Media Control Measures

Bratislava, March 15, 2024, The Europe Today: Thousands of Slovakians took to the streets on Friday evening to voice their opposition to the government led by Prime Minister Robert Fico. The demonstrations, which garnered significant participation, unfolded in Slovakia’s principal urban centers of Bratislava and Košice.

Organized by the liberal opposition parties Progressive Slovakia (PS) and Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the protests were fueled by mounting concerns over the government’s alleged attempts to exert control over the country’s public broadcaster, Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS), thereby encroaching upon press freedom.

Protesters brandished banners emblazoned with defiant slogans such as “We will not give up RTVS!” as they rallied against perceived government overreach in media affairs.

At the heart of the controversy lies a contentious proposal put forth by Culture Minister Martina Simkovicova, which advocates for the dissolution of RTVS and its subsequent reconstitution as a new entity dubbed “STaR” (Slovak Television and Radio). Under the proposed framework, a newly formed seven-member council, comprised of government and parliament-appointed members, would assume authority over the selection and dismissal of the director of STaR, raising concerns about political interference in media governance.

The plan has sparked widespread condemnation, with over a thousand RTVS employees endorsing a call to protest against the proposed restructuring. Furthermore, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), of which RTVS is a member, has expressed apprehension, decrying the plan as a grave threat to media independence.

The palpable discontent expressed through Friday’s protests underscores a broader undercurrent of unease surrounding Prime Minister Fico’s administration since his return to power in 2023. Previous demonstrations have erupted across various towns and cities in Slovakia, denouncing government initiatives perceived as jeopardizing the integrity of the justice system and the rule of law.

As the wave of dissent reverberates throughout Slovakian society, observers remain vigilant, closely monitoring developments amidst a charged political landscape marked by escalating tensions between the government and civil society advocates.