“THERE is no legal reason for my dismissal,” stated Miloslava Zemková, the current general director of Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS), the country’s public-service broadcaster, in response to a proposal by parliament’s culture and media committee to dismiss her. Despite what she called her successes in managing RTVS and support from opposition MPs and international organisations, MPs from Smer party voted to dismiss her with 82 votes in the 150-member parliament, the TASR newswire reported.
The parliamentary committee reportedly acted to dismiss Zemková based on a letter sent by a Slovak citizen living abroad in which he complained about Zemková’s plan to lease new premises for RTVS, which currently operates from two separate buildings. Smer MPs have a majority on the committee and voted that Zemková had violated the law because she had not first informed the RTVS Council, the governing body of the broadcaster, about the start of the tender.
Somewhat paradoxically, the proposal was acted upon by MPs on the committee after they had approved the 2011 annual report of RTVS that had been presented by Zemková, permitting her no opportunity to defend herself over the tender issue. The committee did give her a chance to respond on June 19.
“The reason emerged during the discussion [at the first session] so it had to be passed at the following session,” said the chair of the parliamentary committee, MP Dušan Jarjabek from Smer, as quoted by the TASR newswire, adding that they discussed the dismissal after reviewing the correspondence.
During her response to the committee the SITA newswire wrote that Zemková had said she had three independent legal opinions stating that she had not made any errors, adding that the law on RTVS states that the general director only has to inform about the intention to sign an agreement with a specific bidder after the name of the winner, price, terms and all details are available and that a contract must be worth more than €100,000.
“It is very an impatient effort to take control over RTVS as soon as possible, but in a very clumsy way,” said Daniel Krajcer, former culture minister and MP from Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party, as quoted by TASR, who alleged that the dominant Smer party wants to have control over the public-service broadcaster.
Krajcer added that the government should “find another way and another reason [for Zemková’s dismissal] that is in accordance with the law”, SITA wrote.
Zemková was defended by Miroslav Kollár, chair of the RTVS Council who said that he does not believe that Zemková violated the law. SITA wrote that Kollár said he had criticised Zemková for not informing the council for starting the tender and did not consider it proper communication between the general director and the council but added “I do not think that it was a breach of the law”.
The letter from abroad>
The committee of parliament voted to dismiss Zemková after receiving a letter of complaint from Peter Lisý, a logistician for the auto industry who has been living abroad for about two years. His letter criticised Zemková’s intention to sell the two buildings where RTVS has offices and claimed that she “will use the proceeds for construction of a new building”, the Sme daily reported.
“I do not watch RTVS broadcasts,” he said, as quoted by Sme. “I turned to the parliamentary committee for culture and media only because I care about efficient use of money by the state.”
Though his letter reportedly served as spur for the committee to move to dismiss Zemková, Lisý told the daily that he cannot evaluate her performance since “I do not know her”. He said he had not expected his complaint would serve as a reason for her dismissal.
Lisý told Sme that he does not want to advise members of parliament what to do now but does believe her side of the story should be heard.
“Probably they will not be able to recall someone without having documentation,” he told Sme.
Media groups support Zemková>
“Such pressure is at odds with the principle that public-service media have to be independent from political influences,” stated Ingrid Deltenre, the chair of the European Broadcast Union (EBU) in a letter she sent Zemková, SITA wrote quoting the letter.
Deltenre praised Zemková’s efforts to merge SRo (the radio broadcaster) and STV (the television broadcaster) that had previously been separate institutions as well as the savings made by RTVS under her management in 2011.
“It is ironic but notable that the committee for culture and media approved the annual report of RTVS for 2011 and later proposed your [Zemková’s] dismissal,” stated Deltenre in her letter.
Zemková also received support from the International Press Institute (IPI) which criticised the effort to recall the director. IPI emphasised that the law on RTVS does not require the general director to inform the RTVS Council about public tenders in advance and stressed the council had been informed about Zemková’s intentions at its April meeting.
SITA reported that Pavol Múdry, the deputy chair of the IPI Executive Board, wrote that he regretted that “once again political interests will be the reason for decisions that will influence public-service radio and television in Slovakia”.