Berlin, March 2, 2023 — Slovak authorities should follow through on pledges to ensure the safety of radio host Marta Jančkárová and her family and thoroughly investigate death threats made against them as a result of her work, the Committee to Protect Journalists said Thursday.
Jančkárová, who hosts the weekly debate show Sobotné Dialógy (Saturday Dialogues) for the national public broadcaster RTVS from the capital, Bratislava, was first threatened by an unknown individual after she interviewed President Zuzana Čaputová on February 18, according to her employer.
Zuzana Vicelová, a communications officer for RTVS, told CPJ that more threats followed after the station declined to let a political opposition party substitute a guest they had confirmed to appear on Jančkárová’s show the following week, leaving them unrepresented and sparking censorship allegations.
Media reports said police have provided Jančkárová with protection and are investigating graphic messages sent by email and phone threatening her and her family with physical and sexual assault and death.
“It is welcome to see Slovak law enforcement responding quickly to the threats against RTVS presenter Marta Jančkárová. Now they must follow through and hold the perpetrators to account,” said Attila Mong, CPJ’s Europe representative. “Threatening a journalist because of her work is completely unacceptable, and Slovak authorities must ensure the safety of Jančkárová and her family.”
Štefan Hamran, national police president, was quoted saying that the National Crime Agency was investigating “because we know what happened in this country, and I would hate for something like that to happen again,” an apparent reference to the murders of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, who were shot in their home on February 21, 2018.
Jančkárová and her team interviewed President Čaputová on February 18, but refused to let Ľuboš Blaha, member of parliament for the Direction-Social Democracy party,appear on-air when he arrived without notice to debate interim Minister of Defense Jaroslav Naď on February 24, according to that RTVS report. Blaha’s colleague Marián Kérym, who chairs a parliamentary foreign affairs committee, had previously been confirmed as the guest.
“A place in the debate does not belong to a political party, but to a specific guest…decided by RTVS,” the broadcaster said in a statement emailed to CPJ, noting that Jančkárová informed her listeners of the change and presented the missing party’s arguments herself to ensure balance.
In a press conference on February 25, Direction-Social Democracy representatives said they would initiate an extraordinary meeting of a parliamentary media committee to discuss the refusal to let Blaha appear, which they characterized as censorship.
CPJ emailed the National Crime Agency for comment but did not receive any reply.
In a phone interview with CPJ, Ľuboš Blaha said that his party has the right to choose who represents them in a radio discussion, and that the public broadcaster’s refusal to accept him on the show demonstrates “systemic and long-term bias towards his party” in Slovak mainstream media. He condemned the threats against journalists, saying that he thinks they were not a consequence of his party’s criticism.
[Editor’s note: The spelling of Jančkárová’s name has been corrected in the headline, and this article has been updated to include Blaha’s comments to CPJ.]