15 October 1997


Authorities temporarily cut independent radio station off its main frequency

Incident details

legal action

(CPJ/IFEX) - On 13 October 1997, the state-run telecommunications
company, Slovak Telecom, cut the popular independent radio
station Radio Twist off its main frequency for 25 hours, citing
unpaid bills for the use of its transmitter in the capital,
Bratislava. Andrei Hric, the station's owner and general manager,
said Radio Twist was switched off without notice after its midday
news show was broadcast. Telecom officials told Hric that the
move was due to his station's failure to pay 170,000 crowns
(about US$ 5,600) in overdue debts since 13 September. Hric said
he paid the overdue debt on 13 October, but the signal was still
shut off.

Hric said Slovak state television and public radio together owe
Slovak Telecom some 550 million crowns in overdue debts, while
VTV, a private television station linked to the government, owes
400 million crowns. None of these stations has been shut off for
their arrears. Hric concluded that Radio Twist was singled out
for its hard-hitting reporting on government activities. He said
Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar, in a television interview last
week, threatened unspecified retaliation against his station and
the independent Markisa-TV for reporting on his recent trip to
Croatia. Hric complained that Radio Twist has been subjected to
many verbal attacks and harassment by Slovak officials over the
past few years.

Radio Twist managed to stay on the air for the full 25 hours, but
for only part of its audience. The station switched its signal to
its privately owned transmitter in Banska Bystrica, in central
Slovakia, and moved all of its programming to its studio there.
Listeners in Bratislava, however, where Radio Twist enjoys the
greatest market share, were cut off due to distance, which
prompted many protests by the public. The signal was switched
back on after 2 pm on 14 October, which Hric attributed to public

Recommended Action

Send appeals to authorities:

  • expressing concern over the punitive measure against Radio Twist
    by Slovak authorities
  • indicating that cutting off the signal of the most popular
    independent radio station in Bratislava for arrears on a small
    debt while other greater debtor stations, affiliated with the
    government, remain on the air reveals a double standard in Slovak
    policy on the media
  • further indicating that applying harsher standards to
    independent media outlets than to public news organizations
    stifles freedom of expression and violates all international
    norms for press freedom and democracy

    Appeals To

    His Excellency Vladimir Meciar
    Prime Minister
    Office of the Government of the Slovak Republic
    Bratislava, Slovakia
    Fax: +427 5315 487

    His Excellency
    Michal Kovac
    The President of Slovak Republic
    Bratislava, Slovakia

    Please copy appeals to the source if possible.

  • Source

    Committee to Protect Journalists
    330 7th Ave., 11th Floor
    New York, NY 10001
    info (@) cpj.org
    Fax:+1 212 465 9568
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