In defence of Slovak Radio
The recent controversy surrounding an interview given by US Ambassador to Slovakia Ralph Johnson for the International Service of Slovak Radio (RSI) offered a very clear glimpse of the kinds of pressures faced by journalists at state media institutions.
László Juházs, a radio journalist in RSI's english section, performed the interview with Ambassador Johnson, and then submitted it to his boss, Helga Dingová. Dingová edited the script, cutting about three minutes of comments that she felt to be too critical of Slovakia. RSI, after all, presents Slovakia's face to the radio world, and does not go looking for negative stories about the country.
After the Johnson interview aired on March 23, Juházs decided on his own to give the original text of the interview to Slovakia's largest Hungarian language daily newspaper, Új Szó. When the Hungarian version of the Johnson interview hit the street, Ambassador Johnson was criticized by a Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman for the remarks published in Új Szó. Johnson fired back that he had actually given the interview to RSI, and that he had not had a chance to either review or authorize the Slovak and Hungarian translations.
The ruckus landed Ladislav Kubiš, RSI's editor in chief, in a fair bit of hot water. According to information obtained by The Slovak Spectator, Kubiš was called before Slovak Radio Director Jaroslav Reznik and told that he was lucky not to have been fired over the incident.
Kubiš then passed on some of his lumps to the rebellious Juházs, who received an official letter of reprimand and had his pay docked. Juházs's colleagues in the english section were also placed under much tighter supervision, while their interview sources have been restricted.
The missing piece of the Johnson affair puzzle remains the source of the pressure applied to Reznik, Kubiš and on down the chain to the hapless Juházs. People who know Kubiš describe him as multilingual and cosmpolitan, as a gentleman with a government face but an opposition heart. Both Kubiš and Reznik want to outlive the current government and survive September's elections. Both men are forced to implement policies with which they may not entirely agree, and both walk a very fine line between maintaining journalistic integrity and bowing to political pressures. But as the Johnson incident shows, the balancing act is becoming increasingly difficult to pull off.
7. May 1998 at 0:00