Slovakia's Outspoken Prime Minister Opens Door to Fresh Dialogue with Journalists

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) says that hostile relations between the Slovak government and some of the country's media may be about to ease following a meeting in Bratislava today between journalists' leaders and Prime Minister Robert Fico.

A delegation of the Slovak Syndicate of Journalists led by Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary and of the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), pressed Mr Fico to address the crisis facing journalism and to open up a new dialogue with Slovak media.

Responding to suggestions that it was time for a change of approach, the Prime Minister offered a new dialogue with journalists' leaders - particularly on how to change Slovakia's controversial media law, which has been heavily criticised as potentially damaging to press freedom.

"This was a doubly unprecedented event - the first time the Prime Minister has met with journalists' leaders," said Aidan White, "and the opening of a new chapter in relations between government and media."

Over the past three years Fico has fiercely attacked his media critics, accusing them of being unprofessional or of representing only opposition opinion. He told the delegation that negative reporting of the current economic crisis was his major concern.

"The Prime Minister is not likely to tone down his criticism of journalists anytime soon," said White. "But we made it clear that confrontational and intemperate attacks create an intimidating atmosphere that makes it impossible to discuss and resolve problems."

Fico said that he shared the aspirations of the IFJ's Ethical Journalism Initiative, which aims to strengthen quality in media and build new structures for dialogue on the role of media in society.

The Slovak Syndicate of Journalists aims to test his commitment to a new approach in the coming months and will work with the IFJ and the EFJ and other national journalists' groups in the region on actions to improve media quality.  

Later White addressed a conference organised by the Slovak Syndicate on ethics in journalism. He said that journalists should develop a new solidarity in the face of the challenges posed by intolerant politicians, economic crisis and changes in the media industry.

"Ethical journalism is not a marginal concern in an over-connected, under-informed world," he said. "When market forces or politics dictate what can be published, when there is no time for analysis, when there is no real information, only sensation and random facts, democracy becomes impoverished. Journalists need to build a new solidarity built upon quality and high standards to answer this challenge."

For further information contact IFJ on +32 2 235 2207

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide