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Slovakian Parliament

Slovakian Parliament Approves Controversial Overhaul of Public Broadcaster RTVS

Bratislava, June 21, 2024, The Europe Today: The Slovakian parliament approved a plan on Thursday to revamp the public broadcaster RTVS and change its leadership, effective in July after the president signs the bill. The decision has sparked public protests and raised concerns over potential political control and media freedom.

The government has accused RTVS of bias and failing to present diverse opinions. The new law aims to reform the process by which the oversight council for RTVS is chosen. Culture Minister Martina Simkovicova stated, “The draft law … has the goal of strengthening the public-law character of [the broadcaster] and ensuring respect for plurality and the principles of democracy and free creation.”

RTVS Director Lubos Machaj described the parliamentary approval as a “black day” for Slovakian media. According to the legislation, RTVS’ director will be replaced before the end of the current term, with the new director being appointed by a nine-member council selected by the culture minister and parliament. Additionally, the broadcaster will be renamed Slovak Television and Radio (STVR).

In response, RTVS issued a statement warning that the lack of precise processes for the transition from RTVS to STVR, coupled with the absence of full leadership, could destabilize the institution and jeopardize production.

Concerns have also been raised by European Union observers and media advocacy groups. Prime Minister Robert Fico, who has been in power since last year, has opposed media outlets and organizations he perceives as unfriendly. Local media reported that opposition parliamentarians walked out before the vote, which was supported by 78 lawmakers.

Michal Simecka, head of the opposition party Progressive Slovakia (PS), announced his intention to challenge the law in the Constitutional Court. The European Broadcasting Union and European Commission Vice President Vera Jourova have also expressed concern, with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) stating earlier this month that the law “allows for the politicisation of the public broadcaster by the government that would fatally compromise its independence.”

The overhaul of RTVS has highlighted the ongoing struggle between the Slovakian government and media organizations, raising questions about the future of media independence and freedom in the country.