After lawyer and civil rights activist Zuzana Čaputová was elected as Slovakia’s first female president on 30 March 2019, EFJ and several freedom of expression organisations joined the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) to send her a letter, drawing attention to the press and media freedom situation in the country.
To: Ms Zuzana Čaputová
2 April 2019
Dear President-elect Čaputová,
Congratulations for winning the presidential election in Slovakia on 30 March 2019. Your victory marks a strong demand of the Slovak people for change, for true democracy under the rule of law – one year after Ján Kuciak and his partner were murdered in your country.
Ján Kuciak often reported about corruption in Slovakia, including cases that involve the government. We believe corruption is one of the greatest enemies of press freedom, around the world and within the EU. We therefore support your fight against it.
We are confident, now that business owner Marian Kočner was charged with murder and the deputy general prosecutor resigned over his contact with him, that there will be no impunity in the Ján Kuciak murder case. This is an important sign for all other journalists, especially investigative reporters.
We welcome the initiative by the European Parliament, with the resolution adopted last week, to deplore shortcomings in the rule of law in EU member states, especially in Slovakia and Malta. This is an important reaction in these times of rising threats against journalists throughout Europe.
We are still concerned and ask for your support about two recent developments:
Robert Fico, former Prime Minister and chairman of the ruling Smer party, just recently renewed his attacksagainst the media and journalists by insulting and denigrating them. These allegations contribute to a toxic atmosphere for journalists amongst the public, which can easily cross international borders.
Likewise, the attempts to amend the Press Law 2008 by introducing a “right of reply” are a serious threat to press and media freedom. The proposal to oblige media to publish politicians’ replies to critical coverage is unnecessary, unacceptable and not in line with best European standards. It bears a high risk of massive political interference, which would lead to increased self-censorship in the media in Slovakia. We call on the parliament not to pass the amendment. The European media freedom community – and also the Slovak Press Publishers Association and more than 400 journalists who signed a petition, oppose it. We politely remind you that your predecessor President Andrej Kiska stated at the European Press Freedom conference in Bratislava on 5 March 2019 that if such a law were passed during his presidency, he would refuse to sign it.
We, the undersigned organisations, call on you to use your veto power against the proposed amendments to the Press Law, to uphold the European Charter on Freedom of the Press and do everything in your power to improve the safety of journalists in Slovakia.
We are happy to support you with our research and our international networks.
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Articolo 21 (Italy)
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ)
European Federation of Journalists (EFJ)
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Osservatorio Balcani Caucaso Transeuropa (OBCT)
Ossigeno per l’Informazione (Italy)
South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO)
Photo credits: ECPMF