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Population: 5.5 million
Internet penetration: 90%

In a year of political crisis, September’s premature elections saw the return of Robert Fico as Prime Minister, five years after being forced out by street protests following the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak. An attempted assassination of the Prime Minister in May 2024 was met by unqualified expressions of solidarity across the media and wider society.

The autumn parliamentary election took place in a climate of outright hostility towards the media by certain political parties, and the campaign provided further evidence that some politicians no longer see participation in set-piece television debates on the main terrestrial TV stations as essential. Robert Fico and other leading politicians from Smer and the Slovak National Party (SNP) believe they have more to lose than gain from critical questioning and direct confrontation with opponents, when they can get uncritical exposure in partisan, self-styled ‘alternative’ media and/or rely on their large social media followings (nearly 7 million interactions on Fico’s Facebook profile in 2023).

Shortly before the elections a recording emerged purporting to show Michal Šimečka, leader of Progressive Slovakia, a party in second place in the opinion polls, and Monika Tódová, a journalist at Denník N, conspiring to influence the election.1 Although the recording was quickly identified as a deepfake by both civil society and police fact-checkers, at whose behest most social networks blocked it, the hoax had already gained such traction on Telegram, Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube that it was the most viral social media post of the whole campaign.

Shortly after taking office, Prime Minister Fico ordered a review of media accreditation policy for government headquarters. Four organisations whom Fico regards as ‘unfriendly’ – TV Markíza, Denník N, Sme, and Aktuality – saw their accreditation temporarily withdrawn and ministers continue to refuse to answer their questions.

The attempted assassination of the Prime Minister at a meeting in Handlová has highlighted concerns about political polarisation with a parliamentary resolution calling for a de-escalation of tensions and a cessation of hate speech. This, however, did not prevent renewed attacks on the media by representatives of the ruling parties in the immediate aftermath.

Following last year’s licence fee abolition, Slovakia’s PSB RTVS was guaranteed at least 0.17% of the state budget, but after the elections this was cut to 0.12%. This will increase the organisation’s dependence on contracts with the state for specific ‘public interest’ programmes, allowing the government to directly influence programming.

The incoming government was known to be dissatisfied with RTVS and talked candidly about radical reforms. Initially it wanted to return to the pre-2010 structure of separate television and radio, which many saw as a ruse to allow the Director General to be replaced more easily. Andrej Danko, the leader of the SNP and deputy chair of parliament, said in an interview that he wants a ‘state broadcaster’ not a public service broadcaster.

The Minister of Culture (also a member of the SNP) proposed a new law in March 2024. It would alter RTVS’s structure and oversight in ways contrary to key tenets of PSB such as editorial and financial independence, according to the European Broadcasting Union.2 A seven-member Monitoring Board (four members elected by Parliament, three appointed by the Culture Minister) could remove the Director General more easily. Within days of publication, the majority of RTVS staff had signed a protest letter calling for the proposals to be withdrawn. The appeal cited repeated surveys showing RTVS to be the most highly trusted news source, and claimed the proposed changes effectively enable ‘the political control of RTVS by any government’. 

Markíza, the leading commercial TV station, owned since 2020 by Czech financial group PPF, has altered the style of its political coverage since the appointment of a new head of news, Michal Kratochvíl, in December 2023. In February 2024 the ‘vast majority’ of Markíza’s reporters signed a protest letter alleging that Kratochvíl has tried to steer political coverage away from criticism of the government and favour its Presidential candidate. PPF has several large government contracts in transport and telecommunications and, like other stations, Markiza benefits from government advertising. In a barely veiled threat, Prime Minister Fico said he would ask ministers to consider spending their advertising budgets elsewhere.3

Penta – the Slovak financial group with a chequered history of political influence trading, currently perceived as close to the ruling party Smer – acquired Nový Čas and in 2023. This means it owns both leading tabloids and their online versions (with Plus Jeden Deň and

Transparency International Slovakia reported that 29% of Slovaks live in districts which it classifies as local news ‘deserts’. The result is that criticism of local issues is often conducted via social media rather than in the local press and TV.

Andrea Chlebcová Hečková
Constantine the Philosopher University, Nitra
Simon Smith
Charles University, Prague

Changing media

Although the largest declines are in TV and print, even online and social media are used as sources of news by 10–15% fewer respondents than in 2017.

Pay for online news



Trust in news overall



Overall trust in the media (25%) fell to its lowest level yet in the eight years we have monitored Slovakia. The trend for many political leaders – especially within the government – to spurn the traditional media in favour of partisan sites where they get uncritical publicity is one factor that saps public trust in traditional brands.

RSF World Press Freedom Index


Score 76.03

Measure of press freedom from NGO Reporters Without Borders based on expert assessment. More at

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