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Slovak Broadcaster RTVS Staff Strike Over Government Reforms

TL;DR intro

  • RTVS Workers' Strike:Workers at Slovakia's public broadcaster RTVS are on strike to protest against government plans to relaunch it under new leadership, fearing it will bring media under government control.
  • Strike Details:The strike, supported by RTVS management, did not disrupt television or radio broadcasts but involved a protest march to the Culture Ministry.
  • Media Independence Concerns:Concerns are rising over media independence in Slovakia, with the new legislation potentially allowing government interference in RTVS content.

Workers at Slovakia's public broadcaster RTVS went on strike on Monday, protesting against government plans to relaunch the broadcaster under new leadership. Employees fear that this move will bring news and other content under government control, threatening media independence.

Protest and Strike Details

The strike, although not affecting television or radio broadcasts, saw several dozen RTVS workers marching from a central square in Bratislava to the Culture Ministry. The protesters, shouting "Free Media!" and "We're not giving up RTVS!", voiced their concerns over the proposed changes. This protest action has garnered support from RTVS management, indicating a shared concern over the future of the broadcaster.

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Government and Legislative Concerns

The strike comes amid wider worries over Slovakia following the election of Robert Fico's government last year. Fico's coalition government has criticized the media and other state institutions, accusing them of hostility before it came to power in October. The Slovak parliament is set to continue debates on legislation aimed at restructuring RTVS. The government claims the new law will restore balance and impartiality, giving more room for diverse opinions.

However, RTVS employees, opposition parties, and European watchdogs argue that these changes will undermine media independence and stifle government criticism. They fear the legislative changes will allow politicians to interfere with editorial content, thus harming the broadcaster's independence.

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Editorial and Creative Independence at Risk

RTVS's strike committee expressed their concerns on Facebook, stating, "The planned legislative changes will threaten the editorial and creative independence of RTVS employees and collaborators." The proposed legislation includes replacing RTVS's director years before his term expires and restructuring the broadcaster's council to a nine-member body appointed by the government and parliament. This new council would have the power to fill key positions, including the director's role.

In addition to the leadership changes, the legislation proposes renaming RTVS to Slovak Television and Radio (STVR). Employees argue that this rebranding will cost millions of euros at a time when the broadcaster's budget is already shrinking.

Government's Stance

Culture Minister Martina Simkovicova has defended the proposed law, claiming it will bring "public service, balance, independence, objectivity, truthfulness and transparency" back to RTVS. Meanwhile, Fico, who has had a long and contentious relationship with the media, has avoided questions from major news outlets. His government has recently shut down a special prosecutor's office that dealt with high-profile corruption, a move criticized as detrimental to the rule of law.

Broader Media Concerns in Slovakia

The situation at RTVS is not an isolated incident. Slovakia's largest private broadcaster, Markiza, recently faced a stand-off with its newsroom after a star presenter was taken off air for criticizing political and management pressure on content. This situation further underscores the growing concerns over media independence in Slovakia.

As the strike at RTVS continues, the outcome of the legislative debate will be closely watched. The employees' actions reflect a broader struggle for media independence and editorial freedom in Slovakia. The government's plans for RTVS have sparked significant concern among journalists, media watchdogs, and the international community.

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