Slovak Right-Wing Calls for Online Media Regulation
Andrej Danko, head of the Slovak National Party (SNS), believes that online media “can’t write what they want.”
6 November 2018
In an interview with the best-selling daily newspaper in Slovakia, the tabloid Novy Cas, the head of the Slovak National Party (SNS) Andrej Danko said that he wants to adopt a political program similar to that of the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. Mr Danko, who is also a Speaker of the Slovak parliament, said that he wants “a program of tough centralization of state that installs discipline and order here.”
Part of his plans is also to bring online media into line. Online media “can’t write what they want,” he said, adding that next month he will submit a law to parliament which consists of “strong” legal provisions that would introduce the right to “correction and justification” for content published on the internet.
His plans to regulate online media are worrisome. The internet “is a field that is still outside the state regulation and it should stay like that,” according to a 2018 report from the Center for Media, Data and Society (CMDS), a Budapest-based think tank. The report is based on interviews with Slovak journalists. They vehemently spurn attempts by the government to regulate online content.
SNS is now a member of the Slovak government coalition. The party won nearly 9% of the votes in the last elections, which were held in March 2016. The program Mr Danko works on is likely to be SNS’ plank in the next elections, slated for 2020. The program, Mr Danko said, is aimed at promoting “greater state protection, greater protection for the Slovak worker, greater pressure on social security, greater investment in sport and culture.”
SNS was on the fringes of the Slovak political life after 2010, but in recent years, its popularity has grown. Sharp criticism of the SNS in the media has turned Mr Danko and his party into outspoken enemies of independent media. One of Mr Danko’s targets is the Slovak public broadcaster, RTVS, which in the past few years has gained the reputation of a credible news outlet thanks to its objective news output as well as its incisive investigative reporting.
That is likely to change if Mr Danko’s plans to do away with the license fee, a monthly fee Slovak households pay to fund RTVS, go ahead. Scrapping the fee would financially clobber the station.
SNS has a long history of controversies. The party’s former leader Jan Slota was criticized for his arrogance and extremism. TV Markiza, the leading TV channel in Slovakia by audience, reported nearly a decade ago about Mr Slota’s criminal past - which includes arson, grand theft auto and assault. Mr Slota sued the channel in 2011. In one of the court hearings, Mr Slota said that he was proud of beating a Hungarian man.
Some thought that with Mr Danko taking over the SNS’ leadership from Mr Slota in 2012, the party would change. But, although Mr Danko toned down the party’s extremist discourse, he is far from trusted.
Mr Danko’s very remarks about Mr Orban’s program are somewhat perplexing. Less than a decade ago, Mr Danko was a deputy head of SNS when the party was lashing out wildly at the Hungarian government of Mr Orban. “No one doubts that Viktor Orban is a giant dictator in Central Europe, comparable to any dictator in northern Africa,” Mr Danko said in 2011. Today, the same Mr Danko thinks that Mr Orban is “a nice man who enriches the interests of Hungarians.”
Such a man creating regulations for online media is always going to be bad news for the future of Slovak journalism.