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Publishers and journalists decry approved Press Code

The President of the Association of Periodical Press Publishers (ZVPT) Miloš Nemeček has attacked parliament’s approval of the Press Code without any of the changes proposed by the opposition or press representatives as an attack on the professionalism of journalists. The ruling coalition had enough votes in the Slovak Parliament to approve the controversial press bill without the support of the opposition, the SITA newswire wrote. The approved law includes only those amending proposals on which the governing coalition agreed before the vote.

The President of the Association of Periodical Press Publishers (ZVPT) Miloš Nemeček has attacked parliament’s approval of the Press Code without any of the changes proposed by the opposition or press representatives as an attack on the professionalism of journalists. The ruling coalition had enough votes in the Slovak Parliament to approve the controversial press bill without the support of the opposition, the SITA newswire wrote. The approved law includes only those amending proposals on which the governing coalition agreed before the vote.

Nemeček told SITA that the approval of the bill, which will enforce new regulations covering the periodic press and news agencies, did not come as any surprise. He said the goal of its authors was not to shape a top-quality piece of legislation conforming to the established models of press regulation in force in democratic countries, but rather to concentrate on arcane principles which could act as a whip or a rod to use against journalists. He said that the representatives of the press will wait a few days, until the law’s final shape is decided, and then will then examine it from a legal viewpoint and decide whether to challenge it in the Constitutional Court, and perhaps in international institutions.

The Slovak section of the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) said that professional journalistic institutions had been submitting drafts for a new press code for an unbelievable seventeen years, while those in power had consistently resisted their efforts. They said that parliament has ultimately accepted a press law the aim of which is to control the media rather than to secure their balanced legal position based on the principle of freedom of speech and their important role in the society. Julius Loricz from AEJ suggested that the new law thoughtlessly circumvented the rights, protection and social position of thousands of media workers.

The opposition had wanted to narrow the right to reply included in the proposed Press Code. Opposition MPs further suggested that publishers should have the right to react to responses they would be required to publish. Moreover, it wanted publishers not to be held responsible for the content of replies and additional notices or for quoting third persons, for instance the reported speech of politicians at news conferences. Another opposition suggestion was to grant journalists and the media the right to source protection. The approved law, in contrast, speaks of a duty to keep sources secret. The opposition based their suggestions on comments provided by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). SITA

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports

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