Top prosecutor alleges that editors-in-chief violated Press Code

MPs wanted to ask General Prosecutor Maroš Žilinka about letting selected journalists attend a press conference, but he did not come.

Maroš ŽilinkaMaroš Žilinka (Source: TASR)

After the General Prosecutor’s Office did not allow the journalists of several major Slovak media outlets to attend a press conference last week, the editors-in-chief of the Sme and Denník N dailies and the Aktuality.sk news website sent him an open letter. They asked him, among other questions, to adhere to the Press Code.

Žilinka responded to the letter on September 7, alleging that it was the editors-in-chief who violated the law, because they had stated untrue and misleading information. He insisted that to secure the most effective way of providing information to the public, the General Prosecutor’s Office opted for a declaration format and invited four nationwide televisions and two news agencies to inform the public about the reasons for acquitting of charges in some cases.

Žilinka insisted that they have thus secured “the relevant coverage to inform the public, hence there was no need to specifically inform you or other numerous print and online media.”

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“I strictly refute the claims that the General Prosecutor’s Office is evading the answering of uncomfortable questions, because we have always immediately responded to the questions of your reporters, as well as representatives of other media,” Žilinka wrote in the statement.

He insisted that the open letter contains untrue information about the selective approach to some media and journalists, and thus constituted “a legitimate right for a correction and a reply” based on the Press Code. However, he did not say whether he demanded that the answer be published.

No appearance in parliament

Meanwhile, Žilinka was invited to a session of parliamentary committee for culture and media on September 7, where the MPs wanted to discuss the decision to not allow all journalists attend the press conference held by the General Prosecutor’s Office. He failed to show, pointing to his busy schedule, and sent his deputy Jozef Kandera instead.

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“We consider it unacceptable that the General Prosecutor’s Office is picking the journalists to whom they want to speak to,” said Kristián Čekovský (OĽaNO), chair of the committee, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that it might be an attempt to avoid potential confrontation.

Čekovský said that Žilinka is avoiding deputies as well, and expressed regret over the decision to send Kandera to the session. He recalled Žilinka’s promise to be transparent, claiming that “this is far from it.”

SaS MP Roman Foltin was shocked by Žilinka’s behaviour. The representatives of state administration, including the general prosecutor, are obliged to attend the committee’s session and provide an explanation, he insisted.

The committee has invited Žilinka to another session scheduled for September 10.

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