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Jurist Slovakia public media employees strike decrying government censorship

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Nov 11, 2016
Employees of Slovakia’s public radio and television broadcaster, Radio and Television Slovakia (RTVS), went on a three-hour walkout strike Monday to protest against government plans to overhaul the broadcasting service. RTVS employees say the Ethics Commission allows the government to insert influence on news and other media content.

Monday’s walkout, the first-ever strike by RTVS employees, was in response to the bill drafted by the Culture Minister Martina Šimkovičová which includes plans to change the name of the broadcaster to Slovakian Television and Radio (STVR) and appoint a new director through a nine-member council – 4 selected by the Culture Ministry and 5 selected by Parliament. If the bill is passed, the law will remove the current RTVS director-general, L’uboš Machaj who was elected by parliament to occupy the position until 2027.

Šimkovičová also stated that the new bill will restore objectivity and truthfulness to the public broadcasting service. On the other hand, the RTVS Strike Committee stated on Facebook that the planned legislative changes would threaten the organization’s independence and freedom of speech.

Notably, the strike comes after the Bill was recently amended after allegations by the organisation Reporters Without Borders that the Bill violated Article 5 of the European Media Freedom Act. The European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) also contended that the bill provides for the politicisation of the public broadcaster and undermines its independence, violating the European Media Freedom Act’s provision on the independence of the public media, in a statement released on Monday.

EFJ’s statement which was signed by the International Press Institute and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom further stressed that “the need for pluralistic and independent public media, that can facilitate debate across the political spectrum in a time of crisis, has never been greater” after the Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot several times in May 2024.

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