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Slovak government proposals threaten media independence

13 March 2024
Slovak government proposals threaten media independence
RTVS Offices

The EBU is highly concerned by Slovak government proposals which threaten the editorial independence of its Member Radio and Television Slovakia (RTVS)

Under the draft law, RTVS would be renamed as Slovak Television and Radio which would allow the government to remove all the current members of RTVS’ governing Council, including the Director General. A new governing Council would be set up composed of seven Members – three appointed by the Ministry of Culture and four by the government coalition-controlled Parliament. The Director General of the new broadcaster would be appointed by this Council which would also have the power to dismiss them on any grounds.

EBU Director General Noel Curran said: “This appears to be a thinly veiled attempt to turn the Slovak public service broadcaster into state-controlled media. 

“That would be a dangerous step backwards for democracy and for freedom of expression. Independent, objective public service media serves as the cornerstone of a healthy society, providing citizens with diverse perspectives and holding those in power to account. 

“We must fiercely protect the integrity and independence of RTVS, as it is essential for fostering informed citizenship and safeguarding democratic values." 

The proposed law would be in breach of various international standards. For example, the Council of Europe Recommendation CM/Rec (2012)1 of the Committee of Ministers to Member States on public service media (PSM) governance states that ‘the first priority for public service media must be to ensure that their culture, policies, processes, and programming reflect and ensure editorial and operational independence’. 

Crucially, the composition and powers granted to the new governing Council would also be in breach of the forthcoming EU European Media Freedom Act (EMFA), which lays down strict safeguards for the independent functioning of PSM. It should be noted that the current text (due to enter force this Spring) expressly states:

Member States shall ensure that the procedures for the appointment and the dismissal of the head of management or the members of the management board of public service media providers aim to guarantee the independence of the public service media providers…They may be dismissed before the end of their term of office only exceptionally where they no longer fulfil the legally predefined conditions required for the performance of their duties laid down in advance by national law or for specific reasons of illegal conduct or serious misconduct as defined in advance by national law.” (Article 5(2)).

As last year’s EU Rule of Law report recommended, Slovakia should ‘continue with the process of strengthening the rules and mechanisms to enhance the independent governance and editorial independence of public service media taking into account the European standards on public service media’. These proposals run directly counter to this recommendation.

We urge the Slovak authorities to reconsider their proposal, allow for open public debate, align with international standards and forthcoming EU law, and do everything in their power to ensure the proper functioning of a free press and independent public service media in their country.


Relevant links and documents


Claire Rainford

Head of Corporate Communications