Slovakia ahead of elections: Romani candidate suing fascists for defamation
Parliamentary elections in Slovakia will be held on 29 February 2020 and the campaigns are slowly taking off. Jan Cemper, Editor-in-Chief of the manipulatori.cz website, which reports on manipulative information in the media, has written the following analysis.
The Antipropaganda.sk website is reporting that a hoax is being disseminated on Facebook about an alleged offer of EUR 50 to anybody who votes for the PS/Spolu coalition in February in Slovakia. A user called "Minko Pinko" was the first to start spreading the news.
That user published what purported to be a conversation with another user called "Natálie", who supposedly made him that offer. He has not, however, presented any evidence for his claims.
The hoax was then shared by the pro-Kotleba website Magazín 1 (supporters of Marian Kotleba, the chair of the fascist "People's Party Our Slovakia", or ĽSNS), by an adviser to the speaker of Parliament, Lukáš Machala, and by an MP with the Smer party, Ľuboš Blaha. In his Facebook status update made on the basis of the unsubstantiated allegation, Blaha said he was offended and that we cannot allow what he called "neoliberal millionaires" to tamper with the elections.
Magazín 1 later published the information to its website that the post had been a deception - a hoax. Machala thanked them for the information and wrote that it was a regrettable incident - but he didn't remove the original post with the fake news from his page.
Blaha's response was altogether different. He published a new status update on Facebook alleging that there is actually no evidence the vote-buying "news" was a hoax.
According to the Slovak edition of the Denník N newspaper, Kotleba has been doing his best in recent months to act more moderately, but he is still stoking anti-Romani passions through anonymous websites that endeavor to look like standard daily news servers. If one were to glance through the Prehľad správ (News in Review) website, for example, one might get the impression that it is an ordinary news portal.
There is a column with short news items, sections like "domestic", "from abroad", "economics", "culture", etc. On closer examination, however, one sees that instead of articles about corruption scandals, the subjects that predominate are migration, sexual minorities and the Western world.
Among these articles, something new about the ĽSNS jumps out here and there: "Kotleba fans expand abroad, open consulate in Prague", "Kotleba to Harabin: The liberals are weeping and wailing about our eventual alliance". The Slovak edition of the Denník N newspaper has ascertained that the Prehľad správ (News in Review) website is under the control of a famous figure from the extremist scene, Marcel Urban, currently the district head of the ĽSNS in Nové Město nad Váhom.
It is exactly Urban who formally connects the anonymous website to Kotleba's party. The two have known each other for many years and worked together in a previous party, "Slovak Community", which is where Kotleba's political career began.
In March 2011, Urban was voted the "ringleader" of that party. "When Kotleba did not manage to gain control of Slovak Community, he attempted to destroy it. For example, he and Urban misappropriated funds, stole the accounting records, the list of members and the uniforms. That is why the new central leadership had to start from scratch," an old blog of the party alleges.
Prehľad správ (News in Review) may be anonymous, but it does have a required section on "cookies", where there is information about who is responsible for the handling of personal data during visits to the website. That section lists the civic association "Alternativní zpravodajství" (Alternative News) as the responsible entity and according to the Slovak Interior Ministry website, the director of that association is Urban.
The ĽSNS is also distributing newspapers in Slovakia with defamatory content about the vice-chair of the Progressive Slovakia party, Irena Bihariová, whom they are calling a "gypsy fanatic" and also disseminating the hoax that "an SNS minister approved a thousand euros for Irena Bihariová". They say the money was for "perverted projects for children in the schools" or for "the malignant LGBTI agenda".
"Personally I am accustomed to these attacks and counter-campaigns. I'm not the only one against whom they are using propaganda and untruths. Through these falsehoods and disinformation they have always managed to deform public opinion here, so far. We can't just keep constantly backing down. We can't allow them to assault the reputation of anybody who is their ideological opponent, and to exploit these damned lies while doing so, without any liability or repercussions. For that reason, I have decided to sue them. The proceedings cost something, and I can't do it alone - I need your help. The lawsuit will cost approximately EUR 2 000 for the court fees and services of the law offices where the case will be handled and the lawsuit filed. I am posting a link here to a transparent account where we will raise funds for this purpose. The transparent account is not connected to the Progressive Slovakia movement in any way and the funds contributed will not be used for any political campaign whatsoever. All of the money will be used exclusively for the cost of the proceedings," Bihariová has posted to Facebook.
The website Omediach.com reports that Bihariová has also declared that if she wins the case, the money returned to her for the court costs will be donated to a campaign against disinformation, and that the allegations that she has been given a subsidy by the Slovak Education Ministry are false. As of 5 December the donations to the transparent account exceed EUR 9 000.
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