Among other things, the recent wiretapping affair in Slovakia has put a massive question mark over how the ethics of journalism are being respected and how certain special relationships with politicians is immoral, to say the least. The Slovak Section of the Association of European Journalists has therefore issued the following statement:
Statement of the Slovak Section of the Association of European Journalists
The Slovak Section of the Association of European Journalists regards it as highly improper that we journalists be excluded from society as a profession that can do anything it wants. Although metaphorically speaking we are the “watchdogs of democracy”, we can still only act the same as every other citizen, within the confines of the law, and while treading so that the personal integrity of any member of society is not violated. At the same time, we must profess to fundamental moral principles, meaning that renowned higher moral principle should act as the metaphoric muzzle on those watchdogs. Not even journalism, which Napoleon referred to as the ‘seventh great power’, is above the law and can breach the ethics of its own profession.
On one hand, Slovak journalists have long demanded that the immunity of constitutional officials be minimised, persistently criticising the immorality of politicians, the abuse of power and the breaching of laws. At the same time, though, we want to be protected like something holy that misuses the exclusive position in society that is afforded to the profession of journalism.
Among other things, the current “wiretapping affair” exposed the immoral and unprofessional ties that exist between journalists and politicians. These “special” relationships are not only undermining the very fabric of trust that citizens have in democracy and politicians as such, but worse, it seriously damages the journalism profession in Slovakia overall.
It is paradoxical that the very same group of politicians that only recently referred to journalists as “hyenas and prostitutes” is now the one that has managed to utilise part of the journalist community, in our opinion, as a tool and public platform in its sordid political battle. This characterless utilisation of journalists to fight against a political or ideological rival, together with the immoral submission of journalists to the pressure of politicians, is reminiscent of the distant past in Slovak society, and Czechoslovak society for that matter, but unfortunately, also of the first decade after a democratic society was restored in Slovakia.
The history of moral and professional failure – and in our opinion possibly lawbreaking ties of politicians with journalists – is recurrent in Slovakia. The Slovak Section of the Association of European Journalists regards this as dangerous and a brutal assault on the very foundations of democracy and fair competition among political affinities in Slovakia.
The Slovak Section of the Association of European Journalists therefore calls on publishers and editors-in-chief of the press and operators of electronic media to do everything in their power to ensure that this kind of moral and professional failure in the journalistic community is not repeated.
Peter Turčík, Chairman of the Association of European Journalists, Slovak Section.
Tibor Macák, Secretary of the Association of European Journalists, Slovak Section.
English version: John Boyd, member of Association of European Journalists, Slovak Section.