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SLOVAK WORD OF THE WEEK

Koniec

“LESS MIGHTY than the Russian KGB, less notorious than the East German Stasi, and less feared than the Romanian Securitate, Štátna Bezpečnosť (ŠtB) was nonetheless a cornerstone of communist Czechoslovakia,” read the opening line of the first Word of the Week column, written in March 2009. With one or two exceptions, you could find it in every issue since. Now comes the end (koniec) of it, at least in its current form.

“LESS MIGHTY than the Russian KGB, less notorious than the East German Stasi, and less feared than the Romanian Securitate, Štátna Bezpečnosť (ŠtB) was nonetheless a cornerstone of communist Czechoslovakia,” read the opening line of the first Word of the Week column, written in March 2009. With one or two exceptions, you could find it in every issue since. Now comes the end (koniec) of it, at least in its current form.

“I don’t care whether someone had worked for the CIA or the KGB, if they’re successful and respected in their field, that’s all that counts.” This quote by Jaroslav Haščák, whose investment firm Penta is buying a 50-percent stake in the Petit Press publishing house, helps illustrate why his values do not match those of a good publisher.

But there is more: Penta is known for employing former ŠtB general Alojz Lorenc, it was involved in the Gorilla scandal, which drove thousands of protesters to the streets, it is involved in several areas such as health care, where media can be used as leverage against regulators and politicians. Even if it never calls journalists working in its newly-created media empire to tell them what to do, just being part of Penta’s team is more than many can handle. That’s why dozens of journalists are leaving the publishing house.

I started my journalistic career at The Slovak Spectator in 2002 and it has been a great honour working for it. It is with great grief that I leave the paper and the Sme daily, and I wish both the best of luck.

One of the closing lines of the first WoW read:
“The country has no better way of dealing with its totalitarian past than identifying those who helped create an atmosphere of fear and distrust.”

Let’s hope the growing influence of oligarchs in the media does not mean that this poisonous atmosphere will spread from local publishing houses to society as a whole.

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