Robert Fico, who was forced to resign as prime minister in March 2018 after investigative reporter Ján Kuciak’s murder the previous month, had declared a “war” on journalists and had threatened to reform the media law to give his party, Smer-SD an effective weapon against what he called “media terror.”
This threat has just been realized in the form of the amendments passed today by parliament extending politicians’ right of reply. These amendment now only need the approval of the new president, Zuzana Čaputová, to become law.
“We urge the Slovak president to use her power of veto and to reject these amendments, which could lead to abuses,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s European Union and Balkans desk. “It is vital, at time when the media are still revealing information about Ján Kuciak’s murder that could affect certain politicians, that none of them should be able to obstruct the freedom to inform.”
The election of Čaputová – a lawyer who had been a harsh critic of Slovakia’s corrupt oligarchs – as president in March of this year raised hopes that the political elites would moderate their attitude to the country’s journalists and media.
Slovakia is ranked 35th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, after falling 18 places in the past two years.