Public protests Slovakian government bid to take over national broadcast system

Wikimedia Commons/ Author: Thomas Ledl
Slovak Radio Building, RTVS radio's headquarters in Bratislava.

Protesters opposed to Slovakia’s populist government’s efforts to take over the national broadcast service formed a human chain around the network’s headquarters on Wednesday in a show of public outrage.

President Zuzana Čaputová, opposition parties, local journalists, international media organizations and the European Commission have condemned the plan as the work of a government they claim is bent on taking full control of public broadcasting. Journalists call it an attack on all free media.

The country’s populist, pro-Kremlin Prime Minister Robert Fico recently denounced a number of private media outlets as enemies. Culture Minister Martina Šimkovičová, a representative of the far-right Slovak National Party, which forms part of Fico’s ruling coalition, drew up the draft plan. She has worked for an internet TV outlet notorious for spreading disinformation in the past.

The mid-week protest is the latest in a series against the policies of PM Fico. Critics are concerned that he will drive Slovakia away from its pro-Western stance in order to follow the example of Hungary’s PM Viktor Orbán.

Culture Minister Šimkovičová maintains that the broadcast system’s takeover is necessary because of what she perceives to be its current editorial bias, which she claims allocates air time solely to mainstream views, while censoring all others — a contention the broadcaster vigorously denies. She proposes replacing RTVS, the current public radio and TV network, with an entirely new set up. A seven-member council, members nominated by the government and parliament, would select the broadcast system’s director and have the right to fire whoever holds the post without explanation. The term of the current incumbent, who was elected by parliament, ends in 2027.

Last year, Fico was returned to power for the fourth time. His populist-nationalist party Smer (Direction) won the parliamentary election on a pro-Russian, anti-US platform.

Explore more