Credit: TV Markíza
Slovakia: Independence of Slovakia's leading TV news channel must be protected

ECPMF

08 April 2024

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The undersigned members of the Media Freedom Rapid Response are deeply alarmed by the actions of the Slovak government towards Slovakia’s leading commercial broadcaster, TV Markíza, aimed at silencing its critical journalism. We call on Markíza’s owners, the Central European Media Enterprises (CME), to resist the pressure and guarantee the editorial independence of the newsroom.

 

TV Markiza has been under pressure from the moment the new government was formed in September 2023. Prime Minister Róbert Fico accused it last November of being part of the “enemy media” and quickly threatened to cut contracts for state advertising, which Markíza broadcasts.

 

In December, Markíza’s owners, the Prague-based Central European Media Enterprises (CME), replaced Markíza’s long-time news director, Henrich Krejča, with Michal Kratochvíl, transferred from CME’s Czech broadcaster, Nova TV.

 

On February 28, Markíza staff appealed to the general director, Peter Gažík, claiming Kratochvil was muzzling the news output to reduce political content and avoid confronting the government.

 

The commercial media outlet, TV Markíza was launched in 1996 and quickly became a key player in the country’s media landscape. Its news programming has been particularly influential, with its coverage often setting the agenda for public discourse. In the summer 2023, SMER, the ruling party, announced that its politicians would not take part in pre-election debates on this TV station, due to “disinformation.” Many politicians of the current Fico-led government boycott the channel and threatened it with cuts to state advertisement, increasing the pressure on the newsroom. Meanwhile, there is growing speculation that CEM is under pressure to sell Markíza.

 

The internal crisis at TV Markíza is taking place at the same time as the government attempts to take control over public service media by dissolving Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) and replacing it with Slovak Television and Radio (STaR).

 

MFRR partners previously expressed profound concerns over these developments, emphasizing the need to uphold democratic values and protect press freedom in Slovakia. Our previous calls for the withdrawal of the repressive broadcast law and opposition to government interference in public media underscore the gravity of the situation.

 

We call upon Prime Minister Róbert Fico and his government to cease all attacks, threats, and pressure on independent media, including TV Markíza. Critical media are not the “enemy”. They are a pillar of a democratic society and must be allowed to carry out their watchdog role free from retaliation in any form.

 

In this critical moment, the organizations of the MFRR stand in solidarity with TV Markíza journalists in their calls to defend the outlet’s independent journalism. We urge TV Markíza’s owners (the Central European Media Enterprises – CME) and management to resist external pressures and guarantee editorial independence in the newsroom. They must act decisively to uphold the public’s right to access diverse and independent sources of information.

 

Additionally, we call upon Slovak authorities, regulators, and the country’s newly elected president Peter Pellegrini to uphold media freedom, media pluralism, and allow the media to work free from political pressure. The integrity of the upcoming European elections and the credibility of Slovak democracy depend on it. 

 

Signed by:

International Press Institute (IPI)

European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)

European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)

OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)

Free Press Unlimited (FPU)

ARTICLE 19 Europe

This statement was coordinated as part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.

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