Resisting Perceived Interference in Journalistic Autonomy: The Study of Public Service Media in Slovakia

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

Resisting Perceived Interference in Journalistic Autonomy: The Study of Public Service Media in Slovakia


  • Marína Urbániková Department of Media Studies and Journalism, Masaryk University, Czech Republic


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Abstract:  Autonomy is of paramount importance for journalism, but there is little empirically based knowledge of how journalists cope when it is threatened. Using a case study approach, this contribution examines a newsroom conflict that took place in the public service Radio and Television of Slovakia. It started when the new director general, a person believed to have ties to one of the coalition political parties, was elected by the parliament in 2017, and it culminated in layoffs and resignations of more than 30 reporters and editors in 2018. The case study is based on semi-structured interviews (N = 16) with the journalists who decided to quit in protest of what they called “creeping political pressure,” those whose contracts were not prolonged, those who decided to stay at their jobs, and the members of the previous and the new management. Building on the interviews and document analysis, the article inductively develops a classification scheme for resistance practices the journalists used to cope with the perceived interference with their professional autonomy that came from within their media organisation. These practices include having internal discussions, voicing concerns during newsroom meetings, writing an internal letter to the management, meeting with the management, establishing a trade union, requesting mediation, writing an open letter to the viewers and listeners, publicly criticising the management in the media, voluntarily asking to be re-assigned to another topic area or position in order to avoid interference, staying at one’s job in open opposition to the management, and resigning in protest.

Keywords:  autonomy; interference; newsroom conflict; pressure; public service media; resistance practices; RTVS; Slovakia

Published:   21 October 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/mac.v9i4.4204


© Marína Urbániková. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.