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Letter to the Editor: Bias evident in coverage of Slovak Radio

Dear Sir,

I read with interest your article by Tom Nicholson about Slovak Radio (Vol. 4, No. 9, "Stranded in the midst of internal change, Slovak Radio seeks journalistic integrity"). I remember that while being interviewed by Mr. Nicholson I told him that in my experience, one of the pitfalls for journalists is that in most cases they have already made up their minds about the subject on which they want to write before they start asking questions. They then simply look for facts that are in line with their opinions. Well, that is exactly what happened in this story.

While stressing the differences between the editorial policies of Slovak Television and Slovak Radio (which are obvious), your newspaper seems nevertheless to take for granted (in both the already mentioned article and in an editorial) that if anybody gets promoted at Slovak Radio these days, he must have at least "a government face" and "increase censorship". Both of these assumptions are inaccurate. I have never had "a government face." Both my professional and civil attitudes are, and have always been, strictly independent. While in office, my ambitions are to serve the country, not this nor any other government, and to make sure that Radio Slovakia International (RSI), given the circumstances, produces the best value possible for Slovakia.

My promotion to the post of editor-in-chief of RSI has no relation whatsoever with my personal views. Nobody ever asked me to "increase censorship," and I was assigned the job because of my professional experience and linguistic competence. There were no "political" strings attached.

Your "anonymous sources from RSI" report about "increased censorship" and about not being allowed to "defend their ideas". My predecessor's editorial policy may have been not to meddle into what his staff was producing. However, I believe it is my duty to read, comment and - in isolated cases - to change or edit texts of RSI's programs. If somebody chooses to qualify the editor-in-chief's involvement in the process of the creation of programs "censorship", it simply proves that he or she does not understand the difference between his right to personal opinions as a private person and his duty as a journalist.

This does not of course imply any manipulation of facts. Any reasonable reader will certainly agree that if Slovakia decided to create RSI to help the country become better known around the world by means of short wave broadcasting in several languages, then this objective wouldn't be achieved by stressing the negative aspects of the country's political development. We fulfill our obligations by bringing every important political fact, however "negative" for Slovakia it may be, but there are also many good things going on in this country, and we concentrate on these.

The last "anonymous source" quote concerned the fact that the daily news is prepared centrally for every language section of our broadcasting. This is a completely normal procedure done by practically every station of a similar nature in the world, including the BBC World Service, and the argument that the Russian audience needs different news about Slovakia than the French, for example, is completely absurd.

Ladislav Kubiš, Editor-in-chief, Radio Slovakia International

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