Slovakia's Draft Press Law Risks Curtailing Media Freedom

Washington, D.C. and Budapest, Hungary

The new press bill submitted to the Slovakian parliament earlier this month by the government contains clauses that would seriously limit freedom of expression in the country, the Budapest-based watchdog Freedom House Europe said in a statement today, urging the government to amend or withdraw the bill. 

“After reviewing the draft law, I concur with the OSCE Representative for freedom of the media, Miklos Haraszti, that parts of it propose measures that are unheard of in democratic countries,” said Roland Kovats, director of Freedom House Europe. “If passed by parliament, this law would place unacceptable limits on editorial freedom in Slovakia, and we strongly encourage the government to change it or pull it from consideration."

The draft law contains a number of troubling proposals:
  • Article 6 of the draft legislation bans newspapers from printing material that “promotes, belittles, excuses, or approves” war or other inhumane actions, as well as other measures that “condone or promote hate” against ethnic, religious or social minorities.
  • Articles 8 and 10 require a newspaper to publish a response if a reader declares that he has been unduly criticized or that his honor was impugned.
  • The draft law empowers the Ministry of Culture, within the executive branch of the government, to singlehandedly determine who has violated the law and to subsequently levy fines.
  • While the judiciary would play a role in the case of an appeal, it would only be allowed to consider the procedural aspects of a case rather than its substance—effectively excluding the judiciary from considering the merits of a claim and the resulting punitive measures.
“This law thoroughly contradicts basic democratic principles such as the separation of powers and freedom of speech for the media—even when that speech is perceived as biased,” said Balint Molnar, deputy director of Freedom House Europe. “We join others in calling on Slovakia’s government to withdraw the draft law and work closely with international experts, including Mr. Haraszti’s office at the OSCE, on a new version that complies with basic democratic standards of free expression and opinion.”

For more information on Slovakia visit:

Freedom of the Press 2007: Slovakia
Nations in Transit 2007: Slovakia
Freedom in the World 2007: Slovakia

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