The attacks and demonising narratives against the opposition and the media continue after the European elections Bi-weekly report on emerging disinformation trends June 28, 2024
© Designed by Freepik presents an overview of disinformation trends that have been on the rise in the last two weeks:

  • The results of the EU elections have shown the growth of far-right and conservative parties in many EU countries. Disinformers in Slovakia have interpreted this as a desired decline of progressivism and a change of circumstances in favour of patriotic political forces. In particular, members of the far-right Republika party have spoken out against Ursula von der Leyen, who, in their view, must not be re-elected as President of the European Commission. She is said to be too progressive and to support 'rainbow nonsense' or conflict with Russia.
  • Attacks on the Slovak mainstream media and the opposition also continued to trend. The approval of the act on STVR (a new shape of the Slovak public broadcaster) was presented by many actors as a return of objectivity and freedom, and an end to the alleged occupation of the media by progressive activists.

At the same time, the disinformation ecosystem is returning to tried and tested narratives about the war in Ukraine. These are often in direct line with Russian propaganda. In particular, they move on the axis between peace and war. The false prophets of peace in Slovakia no longer blame only Ukraine for Nazism. They have also added the USA or the EU to the list. According to them, Russia is not the aggressor, it is only fulfilling its historical role. Nor is it supposedly threatening

After the European elections, progressivism and liberalism remain the enemy

The elections to the European Parliament (EP) in Slovakia culminated on 8 June 2024. The election campaign was accompanied by disinformation and problematic narratives that demonised Brussels or the West, or attacked the Slovak opposition and media. Some of these narratives have died down, some have persisted.

The disinformation ecosystem in Slovakia continued to build the central line of its attacks and manipulations after the publication of the election results – a hostile image and the use of the negative label of "progressivism" or "liberalism". The reverberations of the EP elections, but also the inauguration of the new Slovak President, helped. Some actors returned to the tried and tested topic of the war in Ukraine.

The European elections showed, among other things, the rise in popularity of the far right and more conservative principles in many EU countries. This fact was presented as good news, for example, by Milan Mazurek, a newly elected MEP from the Republika party. He said in a Facebook video that "the balance of power in the European Parliament is changing significantly, and it is changing significantly in favour of patriotic political forces (...) who are against uncontrolled mass migration, against the Green Deal, against the ban on internal combustion engines and against the digital totalitarianism that the European Union is preparing for us."

Mazurek thus picked up on the topics and narratives that he and his party colleague Milan Uhrík had followed during the election campaign, and which they had used to scare their audience. Uhrík also commented on the election result in the sense that the progressives may have won, but only on paper, as their vote will be in the minority for Slovakia. In the EP, according to Uhrík, the Republika party will strive to form a strong patriotic bloc. In a later video, he presented the view that the formation of a patriotic bloc in the EP will help "stop the progressives and the fools from Brussels".

References to allegedly harmful progressivism also touched on the possibility of Ursula von der Leyen's re-election as President of the European Commission, which both MEPs for the Republika firmly rejected. Uhrík called on the Slovak government not to support von der Leyen for the office. He also later said that her re-election would be "a total denial of everything that any normal person can expect from the European Union".

Mazurek also joined the motion and asked the SMER-SSD MEPs to distance themselves from its support. He argued that von der Leyen is a "totally progressive person" who "is pulling millions of immigrants into Europe", "is in favour of gender ideology, in favour of rainbow nonsense", supports the war against Russia or the Green Deal. Mazurek has thus once again resorted to his typical strategy of constantly repeating slogans designed to make Slovaks fear the EU as something alien and harmful.

Ľuboš Blaha, the newly elected MEP for SMER-SSD, used his post on Telegram to continue his attacks on Progressive Slovakia party (PS). Despite the success of the right-wing forces, Blaha said the problem is that "the PS’ members [will] abuse the liberal faction for anti-Slovak resolutions and attacks against our government". The MEP denigrated the PS by claiming that the party does not promote any national interests but, on the contrary, carries out a "progressivist jihad against its own state".

Blaha continued his rhetoric about progressivism in his post insulting and attacking the now former Slovak President Zuzana Čaputová. She is once again becoming a useful target for him, whom he can accuse of being involved in the polarisation of society, Russophobia or militarism. In the past, Blaha has faced legal proceedings for his statements about the president as a traitor or an agent of foreign interests. In this case, the court sided with Čaputová. Even though she has now been officially replaced in office by the new president, Peter Pellegrini, the attacks on her person by Blaha are likely to continue.

In mid-June, Blaha referred to her as the "Great Helmswoman", creating a false and highly inappropriate parallel to China's authoritarian leader Mao Zedong. Indeed, he likened her popularity to the cult of the Great Helmsman. According to Blaha, Čaputová encouraged fanaticism among her fans, which he also indirectly linked to the attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico: "Maybe they will lynch some of those inconvenient politicians and scientists in the process. This is how all fanaticism ends. Remember Cintula. It started with him too, with a postcard to the 'brave, wise and beautiful' Zuzana." Čaputova's real performance in office was truncated and degraded by Blaha to allegedly questioning the institution of the referendum or signing an occupation agreement with the USA. Allegedly, the former president was supposed to "take Brussels and Washington at their word" and spread neoliberal phrases or Bandera salutes.

Hateful messages towards the former president also accumulated under the post of Katarína Boková, a former member of the Slovak Renaissance Movement who ran for the far-right Kotleba - ĽSNS party in the European elections. From her profile, Katarína Boková - Mothers for Peace published a post calling for "sensitive comments" about Čaputová and her partner Juraj Rizman. Already their joint photo, which Boková added to the post, included the caption "The bell has rung and the parasites are finished". The comments section of the post includes a wide range of hateful messages. For example, Bokova's fans referred to the former president as a "useless individual", a "gravedigger of Slovakia", a "liar and collaborator", and sent her to "hot hell " or to Leopoldov prison.

These messages are understandably at odds with the supposed message of peace that Boková purportedly wants to spread. However, Mothers for Peace, who have organised peace marches in the past, are presenting their own misguided image in which peace means victory for Russia and legitimisation of its aggression against Ukraine. Despite the fact that, according to their official position, "no one has the right to achieve their interests through violence and hatred", and that the idea of the marches was supposed to have been born as a response to fear, anger and insecurity, Boková herself has been reinforcing these negative emotions for a long time.

Hostile media and opposition

Attacks on "hostile" media followed a similar line. They were mainly labelled as progressive, liberal, or partisan. In the last two weeks, the disinformation ecosystem has tried to portray the media as a "hidden" ally of the opposition, especially the Progressive Slovakia party. However, some of the actors have also boasted about the end of the public service media and repeated the false narratives about RTVS bias that they have been feeding their audience for months.

First of all, Ľuboš Blaha spoke about the alleged silence of the liberal media on topics that do not suit them. Unlike the cases of the murder of journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová, as well as the terrorist attack in Tepláreň, these media are allegedly silent on the assassination attempt on Prime Minister Robert Fico "because they know that they are co-responsible". Once again, as in recent weeks, the false belief that the attacker of the Prime Minister was supposed to be an 'opposition activist' is also being spread. Meanwhile, Blaha's Telegram post was also picked up by the official SMER-SSD Facebook page.

During the last two weeks, the attention of the disinformers has been directed specifically to the situation surrounding the changes in the public broadcaster RTVS, which were sealed by the approval of the Slovak Television and Radio Act (STVR) in the parliament in a limited mode. President Peter Pellegrini is due to decide on the law next week after returning from a working trip to Brussels.

According to Blaha, the changes in the media are bringing back freedom: "RTVS as a loud trumpet of progressivism is coming to an end. Even with Machaj [current director of RTVS]. And other jihadists against any other opinion...' The politician thus supports the lies and myths about RTVS, which allegedly was not objective. In his opinion, the functioning of RTVS was about "the occupation of television by sunny [progressive] activists".

The allegations that the media was not objective were also supported by Marián Kéry, a member of the Slovak parliament for SMER-SSD. In a post taken over by the party's official Facebook page, he claimed that "a monstrous step against public service" was the abolition of licence fees, which was enforced by the SaS and Matovic's OĽaNO parties. According to Kéry, the government of Iveta Radičová also acted against public broadcasting at a time when radio and television were "purposely merged " for political reasons. Kéry is thus passing the buck and blaming other political parties and former governments for the alleged undermining of public broadcasting. He concludes that when the media or opposition parties oppose the new law, it means that "the anti-Slovak, liberal and progressive opposition is simply fighting again, covered by the allied liberal media, on a front that is artificially created".

Blaha's narratives about the alleged media "jihad" also appeared in the attacks on Denník N. He was reacting to a situation in which the editor of Denník N's podcast series "This We Cut Out", Adam Znášik, repeatedly used the term "moron" in one of the episodes in connection with SMER-SSD party members Erik Kaliňák, Juraj Gedra and Richard Glück. Despite the fact that the editor-in-chief of the medium, Matúš Kostolný, apologised for Znášik's actions and pointed out that the podcast was a satirical format, the named MPs called a press conference and spoke about the lack of respect for other opinions.

Ľuboš Blaha responded in his Telegram posts with heated rhetoric and misleading dramatisation. He claimed that "no reconciliation is possible with progressives" because they do not want it. He said the media is "waging an all-out war" against the current government and "what they are showing is sheer hatred." At the same time, in a post without any evidence, he claimed "The assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico didn't even move them. They can't say it out loud, but in their minds they're happy about it - do you think Znášik from Denník N would prefer not to see us dead? Us "morons?"

The politician reacted radically to an expressive term used in a satirical podcast, but he himself referred to editor Znášík as a "primitive" on his Telegram, which he uses as his main channel for communicating his political views. He has also long used hateful rhetoric and terms that border on the borderline of polite expression in his attacks on the media or the opposition. Despite the fact that, according to Blaha, the ruling coalition is striving for reconciliation in society, a similar trend of vulgar language can be observed among SMER-SSD leader Robert Fico himself and members of the Slovak National Party (SNS).

The SMER-SSD party also shared a conspiratorial post via its official Facebook page that the progressives allegedly "wanted to silence opponents and arrest pro-national politicians". We must not get used to vulgarity and assassinations – both real and media ones – against the SMER-SSD party or the ruling coalition, they say. However, even in this case, the argumentation was built only on the aforementioned podcast episode, while the rhetoric of government politicians has long been vulgar and hateful towards the media and the opposition.

In the attached video from the TA3 discussion show, Slovak Minister of Defence Robert Kaliňák reproached Michal Šimečka, the leader of the Progressive Slovakia party, for the fact that during the previous three years people were allegedly prosecuted for hate speeches, but only those that were directed against the Progressive Slovakia party. There is no way to substantiate such a claim. Anyway, at the moment, politicians of the ruling coalition are very sensitive to any critical voices or more or less expressive expressions against their own people or policies, which is illustrated by the example of the podcast "This We Cut Out". In the case of vulgar rhetorical speeches by Robert Fico or Ľuboš Blaha, we have not yet witnessed self-reflection or a public apology.

Ľuboš Blaha tried to exploit the situation surrounding the Denník N podcast to create the idea that the media outlet was presenting extreme positions. In the piece, he added that this extreme must be isolated and excluded from the debate, along with its political affiliate Progressive Slovakia. He also later claimed that "such intolerant and hateful individuals appear not only in Denník N, but also in the public broadcaster RTVS".

In connection with RTVS, Blaha also returned in this post to the lies that the medium was biased and that only people with one correct opinion were invited to the programmes. He very misleadingly contrasted the medium with the disinformation website InfoVojna, which has long been presenting the positions and opinions of the same figures - and precisely those who have a background in the disinformation ecosystem and whose statements suit the website.

Since posts containing narratives attacking the media and the opposition have been dominant in the Slovak information space in the last two weeks, we also looked at them using the CrowdTangle analytical tool. We used it to analyse the most popular posts on Slovak Facebook that contained the keywords "media", "opposition", "liberalism" or "progressivism". We excluded from the list those posts that did not contain problematic narratives. We then evaluated the posts based on the total number of interactions (the sum of all reactions, comments, and shares).

top 5

The post with the most interactions on Facebook was published on the official SMER-SSD page. It is a post of Ľuboš  Blaha that the party has traditionally shared from Telegram. In addition to the attacks on the media that we have addressed above, Blaha's post also looks back at the results of the EP elections. He describes them as a defeat for progressivism, the opposition and its "partisan media". Blaha claims that "nine out of 15 MEPs reject both progressivism and Eurofederalism, and eight out of 15 reject the war against Russia." He is thus returning once again to the use of terms that are almost meaningless in his rhetoric, and is simply using them to create bogeymen for his own audience. Whether it is liberalism, progressivism, or war against Russia, these terms lose their meaning in Blaha's posts - they only serve to label and demonize the "enemy." The whole piece thus moves within manipulative frameworks that have been created by similar rhetoric for a long time and are now a tried and tested tool for building support.

The second post is a compilation of footage from the political debate between Robert Kaliňák (SMER-SSD) and Michal Šimečka (Progressive Slovakia), which took place on TA3. It was also published by the official Facebook page of the SMER-SSD party. The video of the current Minister of Defence contains several problematic narratives - but once again they are united by an attack on the liberalism of the opposition and the media. Robert Kaliňák did not avoid the manipulative accusation of Progressive Slovakia of fanatising the assailant who attempted to assassinate Robert Fico. He continued with the set rhetoric that places the responsibility for the spread of hatred in Slovak society solely on the shoulders of the opposition and the media. He has also uniformly referred to them as 'progressives'.

The third post is again a compilation of the political debate. This time between Erik Kaliňák (SMER-SSD) and Irena Biháriová (Progressive Slovakia). Although we have already covered this post above, we will repeat that Erik Kaliňák blatantly manipulated when he mentioned that the government tries to inform and communicate with all media. This is in direct contradiction to the reality in which, immediately after the elections, part of the ruling coalition labelled the mainstream media as "hostile" and started to ignore them over time. In addition to the media, he also focused on the non-governmental sector, which he also linked to Progressive Slovakia. Although without evidence, Kaliňák (as the next in line) nevertheless tried to create an image in which the opposition, the media and the non-governmental sector form a tandem fighting unfairly against the ruling coalition.

The next post in the sequence was again published on the official SMER-SSD website. This time the party shared the post of its MP Marian Kéry. It was in a similar vein as the previous posts in the ranking. The MP returned to the assassination attempt on Robert Fico, accusing the tandem of the opposition and the media of false calls for reconciliation. This is paradoxical, to say the least, from a member of a governing coalition that has been building hatred towards the opposition and the media since at least the 2023 election campaign, and in which one of the parties (Slovak National Party) called for political war after the assassination attempt. MP Kéry also did not shy away from attacking Progressive Slovakia - he returned to the narrative in which the party's candidates are portrayed as standing against the interests of Slovaks in the EU.

The last place belongs to the post by Tibor Gašpar (SMER-SSD), which is a summary of a political debate he participated in on JOJ 24 together with Juraj Krúpa (SaS). The topic of the debate was mainly the so-called Lex assassination, which is a set of proposed measures to prevent a situation such as the assassination of the prime minister. The member of the Slovak parliament returned to the profile of the assassin, whom he described as the result of an "opposition production". Gašpar described as unfounded the fears in Slovakia about the possibility of restrictions on the freedom of the media or the activities of NGOs – he also compared them, manipulatively, to the blocking of disinformation websites, which the previous government had undertaken after Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Gašpar tried to portray the continuous spread of disinformation and Russian propaganda carried out by these sites as a so-called dissenting opinion. In doing so, he tried to imply that the opinion spectrum or political camp (to which SMER-SSD belongs) had been the victim of some kind of discrimination in previous years. It can be expected that with similar rhetoric about the fictional totalitarianism and oppression of the "other opinion" in the past, the ruling coalition will try to argue in favour of steps that come with the potential to limit democracy and the rule of law in Slovakia.

Return to evergreens about the war in Ukraine

If there is one thing that adorns the disinformation ecosystem, it is its ability to adapt to the circumstances and refresh its content. At the same time, disinformation actors have a wide range of topics that they have already tested. They know that they are effective, that they can evoke emotion and further contribute to the polarisation of society. They have also returned to the old and familiar axis between the West and Russia – Slovak disinformation actors have once again wandered into the war in Ukraine.

The disinformation ecosystem continues to build dividing lines based on peace and war. The narratives greatly advance the interests of Russian propaganda. After his election to the EP, Ľuboš Blaha clearly indicated this – in his post from the Russian embassy in Slovakia, published on the Telegram, he said that in the EP he would do "everything possible to improve relations with the Russian Federation." He tries to justify this by saying that Europe needs peace and not an escalation of conflict.

Blaha, according to him, will never regard Russia as an enemy – thus continuing the rhetoric that ignores the fact that the Kremlin and Russian state media continuously threaten Slovakia (and other Western states). On the contrary, Blaha seeks to build a manipulative image in which Russia is the victim of Europe's unjust actions. He appeals to the pillars of present pro-Russian sentiment in Slovakia – namely a shared history or a similar culture.

The newly elected MEP continues in a similar vein in his next post. Once again, he returns to the central narrative of Russian propaganda – he presents Russia as an eternal fighter against Nazism. At the same time, however, he also uses modern Russian propaganda that blames Ukraine for Nazism. Blaha manipulatively turns this optic against anyone who supports Ukraine in its war against Moscow's aggression. He targets the US for attacks, accuses President Joe Biden of directly supporting fascism, and sees Western Europe as having "colonial instincts" that need to be eliminated.

Blaha thus continues to draw false negative connotations with the West and once again tries to place Slovakia closer to Russia. He calls for the elimination of hatred and respect for other cultures – paradoxically, he does not argue this way in the case of Russian aggression against Ukraine, and he has been trying to defend Russian attacks (including on Ukrainian cultural institutions) for a long time. MIlan Uhrík, the chairman of the far-right Republic movement, has also tried to renew some of the narratives against Ukraine. In his speech, the latter accused President Zelensky of abolishing elections, the opposition and the media, while calling for an end to the "war machine".

The waters of disinformation scene were also stirred by Jens Stoltenberg's statement in which he made it clear that NATO is considering deploying more of its nuclear weapons. Blaha used the NATO Secretary General's statement to spread narratives of some kind of Western chauvinism and European advocacy of "Russophobic militarist solutions". His Facebook post was also shared by the official SMER-SSD page. NATO is supposed to be driving the whole world to the "brink of nuclear war" while the MEP again ignores Russia's long-standing threat to use nuclear weapons.

Eduard Chmelár also commented on Stoltenberg. The current adviser to the prime minister described the NATO secretary-general as a "total psychopath". Jozef Viktorín of the far-right Republic also took a similar stance. The latter described Stoltenberg's statements as dangerous "rhetorical exercises" that could provoke and escalate the conflict. Again, both ignored Russia's threats of nuclear war. These accusations of allegedly dragging the world into a nuclear conflict are focused exclusively on the shoulders of the Alliance. In the context of the peace summit in Switzerland, Chmelár accused the West of not wanting to negotiate peace. The populations of Western countries, in turn, are supposed to live under " withering propaganda" disseminated by the mainstream media.

Paradoxically, such statements are strikingly reminiscent of the propaganda that is actively shared by Slovak disinformation media from the mouths of Russian officials and institutions. An example is an article by the InfoVojna portal, in which the words of Maria Zakharova are uncritically parroted. In addition to conspiring about the American 'deep state', the Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman accuses Western politicians and NATO of artificially creating a 'Russian threat'. At the same time, however, she warned France that it was moving closer to a direct clash with Russia by its actions.

Similar rhetoric – falsely against war and armaments, but in favour of peace – was chosen by Milan Uhrík. György Gyimesi, who unsuccessfully ran for the EP on behalf of the Alliance-Szövetség party, also spoke of "citizens of Slovakia defeating the supporters of war" in connection with the results of the European elections.

Why is such manipulative rhetoric even possible and effective? Part of the answer lies in the fact that in the Slovak space the disinformation ecosystem has managed to steal or vulgarise, so to speak, the meaning of peace. With this rhetoric, they have divided society into two camps – the bad ones who want war and the good ones who want peace. This is a dividing line that can be applied (and is being applied) to everything from the opposition and the media to the EU to geopolitical issues in relation to the US or Russia. The reality, however, is somewhat more complex. A resolution of the conflict in Ukraine is probably desired by both camps. However, one prefers the victim to 'win' and the other continuously seeks to defend the interests of the aggressor.


Project organized by Adapt Institute, which is supported by the Prague office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, continuously monitors the activities of both Slovak and foreign disinformation actors, but focuses mainly on the former. The project activities are built upon daily monitoring of emerging disinformation, hoaxes, and conspiracy theories in the online information space. This approach allows the analysts to identify disinformation posts and narratives that resonated with the public the most, as well as to find out where they originated, and how they spread and evolved on social media. The report takes the form of a bi-weekly summary of arising trends in the spread of malicious information content online. Based on that, can inform the public about emerging and current trends in the field of disinformation, manipulation, and propaganda.