Military Police Torture Journalists in Zimbabwe

February 3, 1999

Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda
Republic of Slovakia

Dear Mr. Dzurinda,

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is seeking clarification of the reasons behind the recent dismissal of 26 employees (see list below) of the Slovak Television Station (STV).

After you came to power following the September elections, Milan Materak was chosen to be the new director of STV. Shortly after Materak took office on November 20, these employees, most of whom are journalists, known for their loyalty to former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, were notified that their positions had been deemed “redundant” and would be terminated after three months.

Several of the journalists have told CPJ that while they were not told the reasons for their dismissal, they believe that it was poltically motivated. Adding to this suspicion are the words of Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan who told a news conference in Washington, D.C., that STV, in dismissing these journalists, was trying to minimize their political influence on other employees. A spokesperson at the Embassy of Slovakia in Washington also stated that the firings were due to the journalists’ political affiliations.

As of January 4, these journalists were transferred from their old offices to a small, unheated and poorly ventilated room on the 28th floor of STV’s building. They have no access to a telephone and are prevented from speaking to other STV employees. A security guard monitors their movements from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., when the work day officially ends; other than a short lunch and coffee break, they need special permission to leave the room.

As a nonpartisan organization dedicated to defending press freedom around the world, CPJ respects STV’s right to make changes in personnel in accordance with Slovak law. But we would point out that Article 12 of the Slovak Constitution states that nobody shall be discriminated against on the basis of political beliefs. Article 36 guarantees certain basic workers’ rights which may have been violated by STV. Until the end of April 1999, when their employment officially comes to a close, these journalists continue to be employees of STV.

CPJ respectfully requests that your administration investigate the circumstances in this case. What is the reason for the dismissal? Were they dismissed for their political beliefs? Was any attempt made to help integrate them into the STV’s new administration? Have these journalists been relegated to degrading conditions in their final months of employment as punishment for their political beliefs?

We thank you for your attention to this matter and await your response. A list of the journalists is appended.


Ann K. Cooper
Executive Director

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