Slovakia: European Commission must intervene in the STaR wars

Slovakia: European Commission must intervene in the STaR wars - Media

ARTICLE 19 is deeply concerned about the Slovak Government’s legislative proposal concerning public service media – the Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS). Contrary to European and international standards on media freedom, the proposal aims to dissolve the RTVS and replace it with the new Slovak Television and Radio (STaR), which would be subjected to government political control. We call on the Slovak Government to withdraw the proposal. In light of the forthcoming European Media Freedom Act, we also call on the European Commission to urgently flag to the Slovak Government that by passing the legislation, Slovakia would violate the duty of loyal cooperation under the Treaty of the European Union (TEU). 

In March 2024, the Slovak Ministry of Culture, led by Minister Martina Šimkovičová, introduced the proposal for a new law on public service media. The proposal aims to dissolve the current public service broadcaster – the Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) – and replace it with a completely new institution, the Slovak Television and Radio (STaR). The accompanying memorandum to the law claims that the legislation is motivated by the need to address the lack of impartiality, objectivity, and balanced reporting of the RTVS.

However, ARTICLE 19 finds that the proposal is a thinly-veiled attempt to politically control public service media. The law will establish the Council of Slovak Television and Radio, a new oversight body, that will consist of 7 members, 4 of which will be appointed by the Parliament and 3 by the Ministry of Culture. This means that the ruling parties will be given full control over the Council. The Council will have powers to elect and dismiss the Director General of STaR without a cause, while the current Director General of the RTVS, elected for 5 years, will be dismissed. The new law would also establish a Programme Council with powers to assess and control the programming of STaR and to oversee compliance with the public service nature of broadcasting.

The draft law has undergone the inter-ministerial commenting process and further deliberations in the government – scheduled originally for 27 March – are pending. 

We also find that the proposal goes against international and European standards on media freedom and independence, which stipulate that the media must be protected against political or commercial interference. Public service media in particular must be independent in law and practice, and their editorial independence must be respected. States’ obligation to promote pluralism and the free flow of information and ideas to the public, including through the media, does not permit interference with public service media’s freedom of expression.

An important implication of these guarantees is that bodies that exercise regulatory or other powers over broadcasters, such as broadcast authorities or boards of publicly-funded broadcasters, must be independent. For example, the Recommendation on the Guarantee of the Independence of Public Service Broadcasting, adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, notes that the supervisory or governing bodies should not have the right to interfere with programming matters. Governing bodies should be established in a manner that minimises the risk of interference in their operations, for example through an open appointments process designed to promote pluralism, guarantees against dismissal, and rules on conflict of interest.

Importantly, we would like to highlight that the newly-adopted European Media Freedom Act (EMFA) establishes common principles and rules for all Member States, including Slovakia, to address threats to freedom, independence, and pluralism of the media and to safeguard public service media. Nevertheless, the new Slovak rules go against some of those principles – in particular, Article 5 of the EMFA, which Slovakia will be obligated to implement when the Act enters into force later in 2024.

ARTICLE 19 argues that if Slovakia introduces legislation that goes against the EMFA, it will violate the principle of sincere cooperation, established in Article 4(3) of the TEU. Under this principle, EU member states must ensure fulfillment of the obligations resulting from the acts of the institutions of the Union, such as the EMFA.

Therefore, we call on the Slovak Government to respect international media freedom standards, withdraw the proposal, and ensure that the independence of RTVS continues to be fully respected in the law and in practice. We also urge the European Commission to urgently flag to the Slovak Government that doing otherwise would violate their obligations under the Treaty of the EU. 


ARTICLE 19 Europe is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries. The project is co-funded by the European Commission.