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