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Mečiar's office responds to Spectator's open letter

Your weekly newspaper, with its open letter addressed to the Prime Minister ("Editorial," Vol. 3 #11 - June 5-18, 1997), has blended in with that brand of Slovak journalism that eagerly attacks the person of the Slovak Prime Minister. The ability to make an independent analysis and to ask questions based on it - this ability, which is part of profesional independent journalism - unfortunately seems to be missing in the editors of The Slovak Spectator. It was substituted by general accusations and abstract phrases. The questions, which your editors so pompously asked, were asked a long time ago and in a more appropriate manner by other journalists, and the Prime Minister has repeatedly responded to them.
From your questions, you display an obvious, maybe intentional ignorance of media coverage of current political events. For example, on the subject of the referendum, which took place on May 23 and 24, 1997, and not on May 24 and 25 as you wrote on your front page (Vol. 3, #10), the Prime Minister expressed his views thoroughly in a special press conference on May 25, 1997.

Your weekly newspaper, with its open letter addressed to the Prime Minister ("Editorial," Vol. 3 #11 - June 5-18, 1997), has blended in with that brand of Slovak journalism that eagerly attacks the person of the Slovak Prime Minister. The ability to make an independent analysis and to ask questions based on it - this ability, which is part of profesional independent journalism - unfortunately seems to be missing in the editors of The Slovak Spectator. It was substituted by general accusations and abstract phrases. The questions, which your editors so pompously asked, were asked a long time ago and in a more appropriate manner by other journalists, and the Prime Minister has repeatedly responded to them.

From your questions, you display an obvious, maybe intentional ignorance of media coverage of current political events. For example, on the subject of the referendum, which took place on May 23 and 24, 1997, and not on May 24 and 25 as you wrote on your front page (Vol. 3, #10), the Prime Minister expressed his views thoroughly in a special press conference on May 25, 1997. Your editorial staff ignored the information from this event, just as it ignores other information given by the government.

The Prime Minister presents his opinions about Slovakia's entrance into NATO and the EU, and his and his government's broader political views every week in a program broadcast on Slovak Radio called "What do you think, Mr. Prime Minister?" You can also hear his arguments and his views on political events on a television program called "What next, Mr. Prime Minister?" For example, since the referendum, Vladimír Mečiar has thoroughly answered more than 10 questions on Slovak Radio about various aspects and results of the referendum. He devoted 90 minutes of the aforementioned television program to the referendum, to Slovakia's integration into Euro-Atlantic economic and security structures, to Slovakia's democratic development, etc.

The views of the Slovak government and its representatives can be heard at the government's press conferences every Tuesday. But it seems your editorial staff is not interested in attending. Apparently, public information from the government and the Prime Minister is a needless burden for you an your clearly formulated opinions - a burden you would rather ignore. You have taken the position of an accuser - a politically contentious and uninformed accuser - and that does not testify to your respect for facts nor the professionalism of your journalistic work.

Your open letter proves no knowledge of Slovak political life, no knowledge of the basic principles of the Slovak constitutional system, no knowledge of the referendum law, and it ignores the Constitutional Court's ruling from May 21, 1997. When considering our society's difficult and often controversial problems, it is apparently easier for you to attribute them to one person than to make an effort to study relevant facts and work them out individually.

Communication is never a one-sided matter. If you think that an open letter from your editorial staff, with its aggressive, accusational tone and one-sided politics, is a suitable form of communication with the highest representative of executive power in Slovakia, the Government's press and information department has to disappoint you. It is not appropriate for the Prime Minister to dignify your questions - which are posed as accusations and clear condemnations -with an answer.

We believe that The Slovak Spectator will respect the press law and will allow space for publishing our complete reply to your open letter.

Ľudmila Buláková, Spokeswoman of the Slovak Government

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