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19.09.2019

Smear campaign against Slovakia’s journalists by ex-Police Chief Gašpar's needs to stop

by ECPMF

The Slovak police are currently investigating the role of former Police President of Slovakia Tibor Gašpar on suspicion of unlawfully gathering information on journalists, including Ján Kuciak, who was murdered with his fiancée in February 2018. The police extracted information, including addresses and family connections.

Smear campaign against Slovakia’s journalists by ex-Police Chief Gašpar's needs to stop Memorial to murdered journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová in Bratislava. Photo: ECPMF

More than a year after Gašpar resigned from the position of Police President under public pressure, he started a communication campaign aimed against certain journalists, NGOs and the advocates of the Kuciak and Kušnírová families. He also filed a criminal complaint against the head of the Kuciak murder investigation team Peter Juhász for an allegedly illegal leak of information from the investigation file to the media. He has announced another complaint against Aktuality.sk.

Gašpar's aggressiveness increased when Peter Bárdy and Martin Turček from Aktuality.sk suggested that his Facebook profile and web page were not managed by himself, but by PR professionals. Although Aktuality.sk provided evidence, Gašpar accused them in his Facebook status of "the biggest lies", a bias against him, and of replacing journalistic ethics by "targeted propaganda". He has announced a legal complaint (probably for libel). 

In his more recent Facebook status, Gašpar suggests there is a conspiracy against him led by George Soros' Open Society Foundation and including Slovakia’s "liberal media". He accused Aktuality.sk and Martin Turček by name of being "an instrument of propaganda". Further targets of his smear campaign are Monika Tódová from Denník N, Jana Šimíčková from the weekly Plus 7 dní and the daily newspaper SME who have all been covering the Kuciak case and Gašpar’s involvement.

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemn former Police President Tibor Gašpar's behavior. Smear campaigns against journalists are an attack against democracy.

Tibor Gaspar Tibor Gaspar. Photo: Department of Interior.

Former Police President Tibor Gaspar's behaviour is unacceptable. Not only does he lead a targeted smear campaign against journalists and threatens them with legal actions for libel, he is also trying to sabotage the investigation of the murder of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová. Instead of supporting his former colleagues, he has filed a criminal complaint against the chief investigator for allegedly illegal conduct. Tibor Gašpar has to stop these attacks against journalists, advocates of the families of Ján Kuciak and Martina Kušnírová and against the policemen investigating their murder,”

said Pauline Adès-Mével from Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Gaspar’s orchestrated smear campaign against Peter Bárdy and other journalists is dangerous and must stop immediately. Such behavior increases the risk of threats and violence against Bárdy, Tódová and other journalists. We call on the Slovak authorities to protect journalists and to enable an environment where journalists can exercise their right to freedom of expression. We will be monitoring Slovakia closely,“

said ECPMF’s legal advisor Flutura Kusari.

We also note that also before Ján Kuciak’s murder, journalists had also been victims of smear campaigns, led by Slovakia’s former prime minister Robert Fico who stepped down after the revelation of his government’s ties to suspects of the reporter’s murder. In 2016, Fico said some journalists were “dirty, anti-Slovak prostiutes”.