Independent media in Slovakia is under serious threat after the German part-owners of the biggest selling non-tabloid daily SME agreed to sell a 50% stake to financial group Penta by way of news agency SITA.
Just a few years ago the group was under attack from the very same media for the infamous Gorila affair, but now owns a large chunk of the media in Slovakia, having just last month acquired leading publisher 7 Plus and also Trend Holding (which together publish tens of top-selling magazines and the third biggest daily tabloid Plus jeden den) .
Editor in chief of SME, Matúš Kostolný along with his four deputies Tomáš Bella, Lukáš Fila,Konštantín Čikovský and Juraj Javorský almost immediately all handed in their notices with immediate effect.
Kostolný had already stated that he and others regarded the entry of financial group Penta to the media as “a threat to independent and free journalism”. They now plan to set up a new independent media of their own. Another 60 or so journalists at SME also plan to leave.
Other media in Slovakia are also not so independent, with TV Joj being held by financial group J&T, while economic daily Hospodárské noviny is held by Slovak billionaire and current Czech minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, while news channel TA3 is held by Ivan Kmotrik.
The deal just needs the endorsement of the Anti-trust Office, but that is not expected to stand in the way. What’s that old saying? If you can’t beat them, buy them.