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New government in Slovakia after unprecedented attack on freedom of speech and democracy


On 26 March the new Slovak government has been given the vote of confidence by 81 of the 150 MPs. The new government is formed by the same pre-existing three-party coalition and it will be led by the social democrat Peter Pellegrini, former Speaker of the Slovak Parliament, who in the past has also briefly served as Minister of Education and Deputy Prime Minister. Mr Pellegrini will succeed Robert Fico, who stepped down from his function on 15 March, together with the Minister of Interior Robert Kalinak. The new cabinet also includes new ministers of culture, justice and health, whereas the Minister of Education Martina Lubyova will continue in her function.

These new appointments are the consequence of mass demonstrations following the murder of the Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kusnirova on 25 February. The investigative journalist was working on alleged troubling mafia connections to Slovakia's government officials. The killings of two young people and this unprecedented attack on freedom of speech and democracy have placed Slovakia into big state of turmoil and tens of thousands of people in around 50 cities across Slovakia and abroad took to the streets on three consecutive Fridays in March. The protests "For Decent Slovakia" are believed to be the largest in the country since 1989. The protesters' main demands were the involvement of international experts in the murder investigation and a call for a new and trustworthy government without people who are suspected of corruption and connections to organised crime. 

University students were amongst the main organisers of the protests in several Slovak cities. Following the events, they could find an ally in the main representative body of the Slovak university students, the Student Council for Higher Education in Slovakia. Its delegates sent a written statement to all Rectors and Deans of the Slovak universities calling on the support of active citizenship and of the initiative "For Decent Slovakia and its demands". The majority of Slovak universities promptly reacted and gave their students the "Rector's Day Off" during the protests. The Slovak Rector's Conference, one of the three main bodies representing the universities in Slovakia, harshly condemned the act of murder, applauded students' expression of their beliefs, and announced that "the basic fundamentals of a university education are built upon freedom of speech". In an effort to find productive ways to make meaningful changes in freedom of press and academic freedom in Slovakia, many faculties across Slovakia, mostly of Mass Media and Journalism, have organised open lectures and roundtable discussions with investigative journalists on the future of journalism in Slovakia.