Former Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico’s latest threat to journalists has drawn the condemnation of 480 journalists, the country’s President Andrej Kiska and international organisations.
Speaking a few hours after the police rounded-up the organisers of the For a Decent Slovakia protests, Fico said of journalists: “Shall all you comedians be knocked out.”
The protest organisers are being accused of organising a state coup and of being financed by Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros, the Denník N daily reported.
In reaction, Slovak journalists said “We refuse Robert Fico’s attacks against journalists. One murder is one too many” in reference to the murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak .
Kuciak’s murder in February, triggered a political crisis that resulted in major protests, the resignation of the national police chief and the collapse of the social democrat government led by Fico.
Fico’s latest attacks on journalists and protestors were also condemned by Slovak President Andrej Kiska who said the former Prime Minister is intimidating people to show off his power.
“As president, I will do anything to make decent people in Slovakia feel safe,” he said, as quoted by the SITA newswire, adding that such bullying and accusations of activists of organising the attempted coup are inexcusable.
The opposition Freedom and Solidarity (SaS) party considers the police investigation into the organisers of protests a dangerous precedent, “reminiscent of the practices before the 1989 revolution when the state power intimidated everyone with a different opinion.”
The letter signed by 480 journalists said that these actions “betray not just an absolute loss of judgement, but it is also cynical towards the families of murdered journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancee Martina Kušnírová.”
— ECPMF (@ECPMF) November 14, 2018
“It is repulsive towards journalists who continue uncovering mafia scandals after their murder,” the letter added.
“If it were not for brave journalists, we would not know today that Ladislav Bašternák is a tax fraudster and that Marian Kočner had been avoiding real investigation for years. We would not know that Robert Kaliňák helped with the abduction of a Vietnamese citizen and that Robert Fico has ruled the country for years in a way that allowed a group of people standing outside the law to emerge.”
The Slovak branch of Amnesty International said it is seriously worried about the rounding-up of activists.
“We call on Robert Fico, and other politicians to not doubt and stigmatise the legitimacy of civic activism but to protect and support its irreplaceable role in society,” Rado Sloboda, head of Amnesty International Slovensko, wrote in a statement.
The international community also expressed some concerns. “I am deeply worried about what is happening today in Bratislava to Za slušné Slovensko activists,” Flutura Kusari of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom said on Twitter.