PALKO faces charges filed by TV Markíza.
During the same show, Na telo [Skin close], broadcast on September 6 by the country's most popular TV channel, Markíza, Palko even accused its news reporters of "kicking with the mafia", dubbing the station a "corrupt television station and propagandist machinery".
Palko said that through its recent negative news reports about the police and the Interior Ministry, Markíza was participating in a discrediting campaign against state bodies and that it "lied" in its reports suggesting that Palko was using the police for political purposes.
"If I have offended you in any way, if I said something that is not true, you can go ahead and sue me," Palko said.
TV Markíza announced in its main news slot on September 10 that all of Markíza's news reporters and some of the station's managers and shareholders have decided to press charges against Palko.
Ivana Semjanová, head of the TV station's PR department, told The Slovak Spectator on September 9 that "TV Markíza has started looking into what our legal options are, bearing in mind that this is a very sensitive matter."
In an official statement issued on September 8, the TV station said that it "considers the words of Interior Minister Vladimír Palko to be improper and incorrect."
"His statements have seriously affected all employees of Markíza, as well as its Slovak and US shareholders." The US firm CME, which owns a 49-percent stake, is the TV station's major foreign shareholder.
It is common knowledge that Palko is in personal conflict with Pavol Rusko, head of the ruling New Citizen's Alliance (ANO) party. Rusko, the parliamentary deputy speaker who is expected to become the country's economy minister, founded Markíza, leading it until shortly before entering national politics after the 2002 national elections.
Palko, on the other hand, is a member of Rusko's ruling coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (KDH), a party that Rusko recently accused of misusing the police for political purposes. KDH has categorically rejected those statements.
Rusko's accusation came in the middle of a police investigation in which the ANO boss has been suspected of committing six crimes, including blackmail, before entering politics. Police investigators even asked Attorney General Milan Hanzel to submit a request to parliament to strip Rusko of his parliamentary immunity, but after studying the Rusko files, Hanzel rejected the request, citing insufficient evidence.
Palko says, however, that the police have continued the investigation, as Hanzel never ordered the proceedings to stop.
Many believe that Rusko still has some influence over Markíza, although the politician rejects such claims. There are no official statistics available on how many of Markíza's reports in recent months have been critical of Palko or KDH policies. On several occasions in the past, however, surveys by media monitoring agency Memo 98 showed that the TV station tended to be biased in favour of ANO.
Rusko has compared Palko's attack on journalists to the actions of the former PM, the authoritative Vladimír Mečiar, adding that Palko's words were "a very sad reflection on Mr. minister".
But Palko insisted that the unidentified group has been trying to infiltrate top social spheres, including the media, seeking to gain influence that would enable it to stand above the law and justice.
He said: "Perhaps the conflict does not even lie in some fight between political parties. The important point is whether this fight is won by the state, which is attempting to uphold the law so that all citizens are equal, or whether it is won by a certain society that I call mafia, although by this I do not mean some racketeers with shaved heads."
15. Sep 2003 at 0:00 | Martina Pisárová