Pressure by Prime Minister on Public Broadcaster over Coverage

Update: 12 May 2017 State replied
Year 13 Apr 2017 Country Slovak Republic Category Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom Source of threat State Partner IPI , AEJ Alert level Level 2
13 Apr 2017 Slovak Republic Other acts having chilling effects on media freedom State IPI , AEJ Level 2

In a 6 April 2017 address to Slovakia’s parliament, Prime Minister Robert Fico, speaking as chair of the Direction – Social Democracy (Smer-SD) party, announced that he would instruct deputies to make a change in the leadership of public broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS). Parliament is expected to decide in June whether to retain or replace current RTVS Director General Václav Mika, who is nearing the end of a five-year term. Fico criticised the broadcaster’s news coverage, accusing it of being biased and asking unfair questions, and he said he would give lawmakers “clear guidance” recommending a change in RTVS’ leadership. The call echoed Fico’s statements earlier in the week accusing the broadcaster of being “no longer a public-service” and “opposition-oriented”. RTVS has faced criticism from Slovak National Party (SNS) lawmakers since they joined a coalition government with Smer in 2016. Smer lawmakers faced similar accusations of pressure in 2012 when they elected Mika to a five-year term after then-RTVS Director General Miroslava Zemková’s term was controversially cut short over her failure to inform lawmakers about the launch of a tender. Most opposition parties boycotted the 2012 vote electing Mika, calling it an effort by Smer to assert political control over RTVS.

State replies

Follow-ups

02 May 2017 : The CoE Commissioner for Human Rights details the prerequisites for well-funded and strong public service media.

Relevant CoE instruments Disclaimer

15 Dec 2016 : Recommendation CM/Rec(2012)1 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on public service media governance (Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 15 February 2012 at the 1134th meeting of the Ministers' Deputies)

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On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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