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Prime minister accuses media of "harassing" minister and "political involvement"

(IPI/IFEX) - The following is a 13 August 2007 press release by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an IPI affiliate:

PRESS RELEASE SLOVAKIA

Vienna, 13 August 2007 - The Vienna based South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), an affiliate of the International Press Institute (IPI), a global press freedom organisation representing editors, publishers and leading journalists in over 110 countries, is deeply concerned at the latest verbal attacks against media by government officials in Bratislava.

According to information before SEEMO, Prime Minister Robert Fico has accused the media in Slovakia of harassing the Minister of Labor, Social Affairs and Family Viera Tomanova. According to the prime minister, the media have directly entered the political arena as participants of political confrontation and competition and they have become the open political opposition against his government. He also added that Tomanova has his full trust.

Earlier, the media reported that a non-governmental organization that employed Tomanova before she took up her current position owes several million crowns in compulsory social insurance payments. Slovak dailies also wrote that her ministry had approved a grant to this NGO despite its debt to the state. Fico has labeled these statements as absurd lies and accusations.

SEEMO believes that media have an important duty to inform the public about the activities of governmental officials in a democratic society. This includes the right to investigate possible irregularities. Oliver Vujovic, SEEMO Secretary General, added: "to be a politician and especially a member of a government means to be open to critical reports and investigations from the media. This should be respected by every politician. We would like to remind politicians that those with legitimate complaints against the media have a range of different mechanisms to pursue these complaints. However, verbal attacks by one of the most senior members of government are unacceptable".

SEEMO is a regional network of editors, media executives and leading journalists in South East Europe.

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