The International Press Institute today condemned the assassination attempt on Slovak Prime Minister, Robert Fico, and called for an immediate end to the violent political rhetoric and discourse directed against the media. 

“The assassination attempt on Prime Minister Fico is an appalling act as it is an attack on Slovakia’s democracy,” said Frane Maroević, IPI Executive Director. “We wish the Prime Minister full and swift recovery.” 

“IPI is deeply alarmed by politicians blaming independent media for this heinous act. Such rhetoric is an attempt to exploit the shooting for political gain and can only heighten tensions when the country needs restraint from its political leaders. We are already witnessing statements on social media blaming the ‘liberal media’ and we fear for the safety of Slovak journalists.”

Fears of a targeting of independent media were further exacerbated by a video circulating of the gunman allegedly claiming he was motivated by the government’s attack on the public broadcaster.

The political atmosphere has rapidly deteriorated in Slovakia since the October 2023 elections saw the return of Robert Fico to power at the head of a coalition government. Since then, the government has threatened to withdraw advertising funds from critical media, denied certain media access to press conferences and pushed through a highly controversial public broadcasting law that would see the current Radio and Television Slovakia replaced with a new institution and a new governing board appointed by the current government.

Relations between the media and Robert Fico‘s SMER party have been fraught ever since the 2018 assassination of Aktuality journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée, Martina Kušnírová, led to Fico’s resignation. In February this year, the government changed the criminal code that led to the dissolution of the Special Prosecutor’s Office that was responsible for investigating the most serious corruption cases and the murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová, sparking huge public protests.