A document outlining the new internal rules for the short news reports of the radio department of the public-service RTVS, authored by the head of the radio news desk, Petra Stano Maťašovská, has caused outrage amongst the opposition, which is now calling for her dismissal. Amongst the principals laid down are instructions ordering reporters not to cite other media sources and to limit the information they broadcast about the opposition and protests.
The broadcaster has confirmed the document's authenticity and said that they have reprimanded its author, the Omediach.com website reported.
What is in the document?
Among the 16 new rules for short news broadcasts, which were reportedly created on October 10, is one that says that when preparing stories, reporters should solely use the newswires TASR, SITA and ČTK, and original stories prepared by RTVS reporters. They should not take information from other media sources and their websites.
Moreover, reporters should avoid notifications and invitations for events whose preparation is underway, particularly the protest marches, gatherings etc. Notifications should only include the list of expected events broadcast in the morning edition of Rádiožurnál, the main news programme of Slovak Radio. Also in this case, reporters should think very carefully about the press conferences they will report.
In addition, reporters should not give information about draft laws and amendments prepared by opposition MPs before they advance to the second reading or without a response from the coalition or the respective ministry.
“Parliamentary practice shows that nearly none of these drafts are passed in the first reading, so their relevance is quite low,” the document reads, as quoted by Omediach.com. “These are often proposals that are unprepared, non-systemic and non-discussed, which are designed to attract public attention rather than solve the problem. They would fool rather than inform the listeners.”
RTVS: It was misinterpreted
RTVS meanwhile confirmed the authenticity of the document. Though it reprimanded Stano Maťašovská, the broadcaster stressed that it was taken out of context.
“RTVS disagrees with the interpretation of the published material which was taken out of context and doesn’t correspond with the reality of the preparation and the content of SRo’s news coverage,” its spokesperson Erika Rusnáková said, as quoted by the Denník N daily.
As she explained the published document concerns only short news coverage that has a specific character and its broadcasting time is shorter than the other news programmes. It does not allow the reporters to inform about certain events in detail.
However, it admits that some parts of the text were not phrased appropriately, which created space for their misinterpretation, Rusnáková added.
Opposition talks about censorship
The opposition deputies were outraged by the new rules, calling it normalisation of the public-service broadcaster, the propaganda of ruling parties and an effort to exclude the opposition from news coverage that is paid by everyone from their taxes, said Veronika Remišová, MP for the Ordinary People and Independent Personalities (OĽaNO), as reported by Denník N.
At the same time, the parties called for a withdrawal of the new document and the dismissal of Stano Maťašovská from her post.
“We consider it an absolute scandal; the normalisation of live broadcasts, the censorship and the return of communism,” said Lucia Ďuriš Nicholsonová of Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), as quoted by Denník N.
Former culture minister Marek Maďarič of Smer said that the document violates the public-service principles and offends the opposition, the daily wrote.