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Thousands rally in Slovakia to protest overhaul of public broadcaster

Thousands rally in Slovakia to protestoverhaul of public broadcasting
Thousands rally in Slovakia to protestoverhaul of public broadcasting Copyright Jaroslav Novak/Tlacova agentura SR
Copyright Jaroslav Novak/Tlacova agentura SR
By Euronews with AP
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Critics worry Slovakia under PM Robert Fico will abandon its pro-Western course and follow the direction of Hungary under his populist counterpart Viktor Orbán.

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Thousands of Slovaks rallied in the capital Bratislava on Thursday to protest a controversial overhaul of the country’s public radio and television services, a move that critics say would result in the government taking full control of the media.

The coalition government of populist Prime Minister Robert Fico approved the measure on 24 April, and the parliament, where Fico’s coalition government has a majority, is expected to approve it in June.

The plan has been widely criticized by President Zuzana Čaputová, local journalists, the opposition, international media organizations and the European Commission.

The proposed changes would mean the public broadcaster known as RTVS would cease to exist and be replaced by a new organisation.

“The Slovak democracy needs a strong and independent RTVS and its employees need your support,” Michal Šimečka, the head of Progressive Slovakia, the major opposition party that organized the protest, told a crowd of several thousands at Bratislava Freedom Square.

People take part in a protest against the government organised by the Progressive Slovakia movement on Freedom Square in Bratislava
People take part in a protest against the government organised by the Progressive Slovakia movement on Freedom Square in BratislavaJaroslav Novak/Tlacova agentura SR

The takeover plan was drafted by Culture Minister Martina Šimkovičová, who represents the Slovak National Party, an ultra-nationalist member of the coalition government. She has worked for an internet television outlet known for spreading disinformation.

Šimkovičová said the current broadcaster gives space only to mainstream views and censors the rest. The broadcaster has denied the claim.

“They don’t understand that the essence of public broadcasting is to protect democracy, the rule of law and freedom,” said Zora Jaurová, a lawmaker for the Progressive Slovakia party.

Under her plan, the new broadcaster — Slovak Television and Radio, or STVR — will have a director selected by a council whose nine members will be nominated by the Culture Ministry and Parliament. The current director has a parliamentary mandate until 2027.

Fico’s leftist-populist Smer (Direction) party won the 30 September parliamentary elections on a pro-Russian and anti-American platform.

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