Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation. Press freedom in Slovakia has deteriorated

The country dropped to 35th place.

Illustrative stock photoIllustrative stock photo (Source: Sme)

The Ján Kuciak murder trial and attacks by the prime-minister-turned-finance-minister Igor Matovič (OĽaNO) are among the highlights the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) organisation noted when compiling its new ranking of press freedom.

Slovakia placed 35th in the current index, falling two positions compared to last year.

Exploiting the pandemic

“In 2020, two people were convicted of perpetrating the 2018 murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, and a third person was convicted of acting as intermediary, but the accused instigator, businessman Marian Kočner, was acquitted,” the RSF wrote about Slovakia, commenting on the verdict delivered in the case, which is not yet valid.

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The RSF also commented on the Facebook post of former prime minister Igor Matovič published on the third anniversary of the murder, who meanwhile took the finance minister post in the reshuffled cabinet, in which he criticised journalists, claiming that most of them are superficial and often biased and arrogant.

“Due to the pandemic, the government has postponed legislative plans for the protection of journalists and their sources, and the improvement of the editorial and financial independence of the public radio and TV broadcaster RTVS,” the RSF report reads. “The ruling coalition nonetheless took a step in the right direction when it initiated public hearings to choose the members of the Broadcasting and Retransmission Council.”

The independence of the privately-owned media is meanwhile threatened by the influence of the oligarchs who own them, RSF summed up.

Europe is the most favourable

In its latest report the RSF warned of journalism being absolutely or partly obstructed in almost three quarters of the 180 countries it monitors.

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Norway tops the ranking, followed by Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Costa Rica. The worst situation is in Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, China and Djibouti.

The most favourable continent for journalists is Europe, but the authors of the index have noted an increase of violence against journalists. They also pointed to decreasing trust in media provoked by political polarisation and disinformation on the internet.

“Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors.”

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