Ivan Korčok, European Union and RTVS. Disinformation actors in Slovakia continue to build an atmosphere of fear and hatred Bi-Weekly Report on Emerging Disinformation Trends 28 March 2024
© Oleg Chumakov via presents an overview of disinformation trends that have been on the rise in the last two weeks:

  • The most problematic narratives emerged in relation to the first round of the presidential election. The main target of the disinformation ecosystem was the civic candidate Ivan Korčok. In addition to manipulative claims of warmongering and threats to Slovakia's sovereignty, conspiracy theories questioning the results of the elections emerged. The aim is, among other things, to mobilise a part of the electorate before the second round of presidential elections.
  • Part of the political spectrum is gearing up for the European Parliament elections. In particular, the candidates of the Republika movement are active, downplaying climate change and scaring their audience with the well-known card - migrants. Meanwhile, the ruling coalition continues its attacks on Progressive Slovakia party, labelling the opposition as traitors due to the possibility of EU funds being frozen. President Čaputová faces similar rhetoric.
  • In a previous report we covered the attacks on RTVS (Radio and Television of Slovakia) which have translated into a controversial draft law on the abolition and replacement of the public broadcaster. Much of the disinformation ecosystem has expressed its enthusiasm over the past two weeks, but the attacks and manipulations have continued, further manipulatively accusing RTVS of bias and warmongering.

Attacks on Ivan Korčok dominated the first round of the presidential election

The first round of presidential elections in Slovakia took place on 23 March 2023. Peter Pellegrini and Ivan Korčok advanced to the second round. During the two weeks preceding the elections, the Slovak information space was dominated mainly by attacks and disinformation narratives concerning Ivan Korčok. These came mostly from the ruling coalition.

Prime Minister Robert Fico did not engage much in attacks on Ivan Korčok before the first round of the elections. He instead concentrated on the topics outlined below. In the weeks leading up to the elections, the SMER-SSD party's MP Ľuboš Blaha held the baton for the party. Blaha's rhetoric also frames the offensive narratives used by the rest of the disinformation ecosystem.

In his post on the Telegram, Blaha tried to portray Korčok as a traitor to Slovakia and a supporter of the Western powers. He labelled him a marketing product and mockingly criticized him for supporting Ukraine. Korčok's foreign policy orientation is a thorn in the side of many disinformation actors. Blaha, too, attempted to manipulatively shape a reality in which Slovak and Ukrainian interests are incompatible. He thus continued the emotion-laden rhetoric that has long targeted the issue of the war in Ukraine in order to polarize and mobilize Slovak society.

Blaha went on in his next post to attack the NMS polling agency, which ranked Korčok first in its opinion poll from 19 March. Blaha dubbed the results of the poll as manipulated, purposely linked the agency to George Soros, and advised President Čaputová and Korčok that they, together with “their masters from the embassy”, should realize that Slovakia is fed up with them. In this way, he continued to form a manipulative image in which any opposition to the views and actions of the current governing coalition is presented as a servant (or even agent) of foreign interests. The two aforementioned Telegram posts by Blaha were shared by the official Facebook page of the SMER-SSD party (1 and 2).

Anna Belousovová, a former politician and member of the Slovak National Party (SNS), expressed her views in a rather apocalyptic manner. She tried to haunt her audience with the options that Korčok would have as a potential president in foreign policy. She returned not only to the topic of the defense agreement with the US, which she described as an occupation treaty, but also to the manipulative narrative of the deployment of Slovak soldiers to Ukraine. However, it should be added that the President of the Slovak Republic does not even have this power (the authority to decide on the deployment of soldiers). Thus, she also took aim at the narrative in which Korčok is manipulatively presented as a threat to Slovakia's sovereignty and is wrongly equated with Slovakia being dragged into a war against Russia. Belousovová primarily played the fear card, as evidenced by her description of Korčok as "a very dangerous man" and "a cynical servant of foreign interests".

There were also narratives that accused Korčok of being an incapable or incompetent candidate. Among others, Tomáš Taraba, Minister of the Environment for the SNS, approached the pre-election communication in this way, describing Korčok in his post as an "incompetent warmonger". In another post, he, like Blaha, went on to attack polling agencies.

Many of the narratives and attacks against Ivan Korčok stem from his diplomatic past. Various disinformation actors use manipulative rhetoric to suggest that Korčok is not at home in Slovakia, that he has no knowledge of it, and that his interests are at odds with those of Slovakia. At the same time, he is portrayed in this anti-campaign as a warmonger or a danger to Slovakia's sovereign foreign policy. In reality, however, Korčok is a threat only to the emergence of a tandem of the presidential palace and the government, which would, in all likelihood, completely free up space for a further divergence of Slovakia's foreign policy towards Russia.

The Slovak disinformation ecosystem was not pleased by Korčok's victory in the first round of the elections. It managed to activate itself almost immediately - it continued with its taught narratives while building its pace. Ľuboš Blaha expressed the need to "defeat Korčok at all costs" in his post on the Telegram the day after the election, wrongly accusing him of hatred towards Slovakia. He also described him as a "security threat to national ;sovereignty and peace". He again linked Korčok to serving Washington or Brussels, but went further and scared his audience with a conspiracy theory about an upcoming Maidan in Slovakia.

Anna Belousovová reacted similarly to the results - she tried to mobilise voters against Korčok with her posts before the second round. In one of them, she provocatively asked her audience whether "we want the Slovak president to be made abroad again". These posts were also shared by the problematic media outlet eReport. During a debate on TA3, Minister of the Interior Matúš Šutaj Eštok (HLAS-SD) accused Korčok and the opposition of causing harm to Slovakia.

The results of the first round were reported by the disinformation portal InfoVojna as the victory of a "servant of foreign interests" and a "militant warmonger". Eduard Chmelár, a long-time disseminator of disinformation narratives and current advisor to Prime Minister Robert Fico, continued with similar rhetoric. In his post, he branded Korčok as "a candidate of neoliberal and militaristic circles". It can be expected that these narratives will be the main tool of the anti-campaign of those who prefer to see Peter Pellegrini in the presidential palace in the next two weeks.

In addition to direct attacks on Korčok in an attempt to deliberately and manipulatively discredit him as a warmonger and a servant of the West, a conspiracy theory emerged after the end of the first round of the presidential election that sought to cast doubt on the election results. It was posted by Róbert Merva, the director of Torden, a publishing house that has long been involved in the dissemination of pro-Russian propaganda. His post was also shared by the disinformation portal Hlavný Denník.

Climate change and migrants. EU faces disinformation from candidates for the European Parliament

The disinformation ecosystem also shows that it is gradually preparing for the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. Candidates of the far-right Republika movement are particularly active. However, the attacks on the opposition and President Čaputová in connection with the EU funds continue to be nurtured.

Milan Uhrík, chairman of Republika, posted a recording of his speech in the European Parliament, in which he attacked the EU's green policies while downplaying the challenge of climate change. He also declared that the Green Deal would have to be abolished after the elections. Similar rhetoric was used in the video by Uhrík's running mate Milan Mazurek, who manipulatively portrayed the planned increase in investment in green policies as unnecessary or at the expense of other more important sectors. He intimidated his audience by saying that they would not be able to own cars and would have to eat grass in the future.

In his next post, Milan Uhrík went on to scaremonger about laws being passed quickly on EU soil, which are to be passed just before the elections, in such a way as to limit the sovereignty of Member States. In his video, he manipulatively simplified the new European law aimed at combating money laundering and the financing of terrorism, calling it useless and continuing to draw a conflict between Europeans and migrants.

Uhrík and Mazurek jointly voice the need for as many patriotic MEPs as possible in the European Parliament. To some extent, Republika follows the rhetoric used by Štefan Harabin during the presidential election campaign. Among other things, they aim to motivate their voters by spreading fear about the uncertain future in the EU, which they want to save Slovakia from.

The disinformation narratives and conspiracy theories about the EU migration pact have long been a faithful sidekick of this rhetoric. Milan Uhrík shared Štefan Harabin's interview with Livia Pavlíková (also an EP candidate for the Republika movement) on his profile. They collectively branded the EU Migration Pact as the EU's Trojan Horse, going on to scaremonger about the mandatory redistribution of migrants. In the interview, Harabin theorized conspiratorially about the interests of globalists who want to undermine the Slovak gene pool.

The aim of this rhetoric at this time is to mobilize potential voters ahead of the European Parliament elections. The EU is one of the longest-standing targets of the disinformation ecosystem. Paradoxically, many of its actors are now running for EU institutions. They manipulatively create an image of the enemy with which they frighten their audiences. At the same time, they put themselves in the position of those who will save Slovakia from a fictitious threat from the EU.

Since posts containing narratives about the European Union have been dominant and present in several topics in the Slovak information space in the last two weeks, we also looked at them using the CrowdTangle analytical tool. We used it to analyze the most popular posts on Slovak Facebook that contained the keywords "EU" ("EÚ") or "Brussels" ("Brusel"). Posts were evaluated based on the total number of interactions (the sum of all reactions, comments and shares).


The post with the most interactions is a video published by Robert Fico on the anniversary of the liberation of Zvolen during World War II. He used the post to reject the modern Iron Curtain between the EU and Russia. He also said that Slovakia has no plans to make Russia an enemy. Ironically, during the continued calls for a ceasefire, he omitted the fact that Slovakia is still on Russia's list of enemy states from the context. The glorification of Russia as a liberator and historical fighter against fascism not only fits into the narrative of Russian propaganda, but is also quite contradictory. In the video, Fico recalled the sacrifices of the Red Army soldiers, whom he thanked for the liberation of Slovakia from occupation. Today, however, he is refusing to provide any military aid to Ukraine that is also resisting oppression and does not want to be part of the Russian world.

The second post contains a statement by Ľuboš Blaha, which was shared on the official SMER - SSD page. In the emotionally charged post, the MP accuses President Čaputová and the Progressive Slovakia party of committing an act of "assassination" against Slovakia. He was reacting to the President's interview in the Financial Times, where she drew attention to the deterioration of democracy and the rule of law in Slovakia. In it, she also acknowledged that EU funding conditionality should be applied if there is a serious breach of the rule of law in Slovakia. Blaha manipulatively presented this statement as an effort to freeze EU funds. He thus dodged the international criticism that the amendment to the Slovak Criminal Code had earned, and manipulatively turned the optics against the President and the opposition as traitors to Slovakia.

Third place goes to Robert Fico's video. During the press conference, he returned to the narrative of the Western-sponsored mutual killing of Slavs. He also once again indirectly accused the EU of warmongering, presenting Slovakia's sovereign foreign policy and false calls for peace as a contrast. He went on to scaremonger that in the future there would be less freedom and democracy in the EU, but more oppression of small Member States. Fico has been using similar narratives for a long time, cultivating the image of the EU as an external enemy against which he can protect Slovakia's national interests.

Another post was also published by Robert Fico. In it, he attacked the chairman of the Progressive Slovakia party, Michal Šimečka, whom he accused, essentially without evidence, of encouraging the EU authorities to stop Slovakia from receiving EU funds. He also manipulatively linked the issue to the presidential elections. Šimečka was in Brussels attending the electoral congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe. By making similar attacks on the opposition, Fico absolves himself of responsibility for the amendment to the Criminal Code and deflects attention away from the criticism that has been directed at the proposal.

The last place belongs to Milan Uhrík's post, which we discussed above. We may speak of the beginning of the pre-election campaign for the European Parliament, which is likely to be marked by attacks on the EU and calls about the need for Slovak "patriots" in European politics.

RTVS continues to face manipulative accusations

In the previous report, we looked in depth at the narratives used by various actors in the disinformation ecosystem to discredit and attack RTVS. Meanwhile, a controversial draft law from the Ministry of Culture, which is supposed to abolish RTVS and replace it with a new institution, has entered the inter-ministerial comment procedure. Despite the fact that the bill has been shelved for the time being due to a number of comments, it has made it quite clear what the government's intentions are with the public broadcaster.

In the last two weeks, we have mainly observed narratives in relation to RTVS that have supported the draft law of Minister Martina Šimkovičová. In his interview with the problematic Denník Štandard, Prime Minister Robert Fico continued to accuse RTVS of producing a "tendentious media image". In other words, he again attacked the public broadcaster for its fictitious non-objectivity and bias. These are the terms he uses to denote the fact that RTVS has refused to resign from confronting the government's actions.

Ľuboš Blaha, in a post shared on the official page of the SMER-SSD party, described RTVS as "a loud trumpet of progressivism and militarism". At the same time, he praised alternative media, which, unlike the mainstream ones, provided room for other opinions. Once again, we see a case where confronting claims with facts is manipulatively swapped for a threat to freedom of speech. Similar rhetoric has been chosen by Erik Kaliňák (SMER-SSD), who perceives the so-called bias of RTVS to be the result of its control by progressives and liberals.

The rhetoric about RTVS as a tool for spreading liberal ideology and progressive politics was also used by other politicians, including Igor Melicher. In his post, the SMER-SSD party member and current State Secretary of the Ministry of Defense claimed that RTVS was spreading progressive politics with taxpayers' money. Marek Géci, a member of the far-right Republika movement, in turn spoke of his hope that RTVS would "cease to function as a rainbow instrument" (by manipulatively linking RTVS with LGBTI as a bogeyman of liberal values). Eduard Chmelár, who in his post alluded to the privatization of RTVS in favor of an ideological (liberal) cult without evidence, joined in again.

RTVS journalists were not spared from attacks during the pre-election debates either. Barbora Bodáková, who moderated a debate with presidential candidate Štefan Harabin on 18 March and confronted his problematic statements, was subsequently labelled a "pro-Ukrainian and pro-Bandera political activist" by the InfoVojna portal.

It should be added that this hateful atmosphere towards media and journalists is a direct consequence of the political division of the media space into friendly (alternative) and hostile media. Disinformation narratives, manipulations and attacks on RTVS are a instrument for the discrediting and probably establishing gradual control of the public broadcaster by the government. It is through emotionally charged claims of bias and partiality, and through manipulative fabrications about the control of RTVS by liberal politicians, that the current government seeks to undermine support for the public broadcaster.


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.