Slovakia’s EU election campaign culminated in the exploitation of the attempt on Fico's life Bi-weekly report on emerging disinformation trends June 14, 2024
© Designed by Freepik presents an overview of disinformation trends that have been on the rise in the last two weeks:

  • The elections to the European Parliament in Slovakia ended in success also for candidates who do not shy away from spreading disinformation content. In the days leading up to the elections, candidates running on behalf of the far-right Republika movement were particularly active. They stuck to tried and tested tactics and bogeymen – demonising Brussels and warning of a progressive threat to traditional values. Attacks on migrants were not missing either.
  • Politicians on the SMER-SSD party's list of candidates traditionally also focused on scaremongering about war. After the attempted assassination of Robert Fico, they pragmatically presented themselves as victims of a hate lynch mob of the media and the opposition. Ľuboš Blaha claimed that he and his colleagues were the targets of persecution and attempts of extermination precisely because of their different views on the war in Ukraine.
  • Posts accusing the opposition or the Progressive Slovakia party of involvement in the attempt on Fico's life continued to circulate. The attacker himself was supposed to be a fanatical supporter of the opposition forces, according to disinformation peddlers. The narrative was also voiced by the prime minister himself, who in a popular video spoke of the assassination attempt as the result of the political hatred of a failing and frustrated opposition.
  • Another resonating topic was the termination of the cooperation between the most popular Slovak private broadcaster Markíza and the presenter of the political talkshow Na telo, Michal Kovačič. The situation served disinformation actors to launch personal attacks against Kovačič. He was described as a political activist of the opposition, allegedly bullying left-wing politicians and spreading liberal propaganda. The real reasons for the conflict at Markiza were glossed over or downplayed.

Brussels' perversity and the threat to traditional values

The peak of the European Parliament (EP) election campaign has predictably brought an increase in the activity of the Slovak disinformation ecosystem. Candidates of SMER-SSD and the far-right Republika movement were especially involved. In addition to the topic of the assassination attempt on prime minister Fico, the long-known narratives resonated - scaremongering about war, progressivism, green policies or decadent Brussels.

In the last days of the campaign, the chairman of the Republika, Milan Uhrík, continued his rhetoric of continuously attacking progressivism and the so-called Brussels liberalism. In one of his posts, he once again tried to evoke the feeling of a threat to traditional values. The video, in which he appeared together with Milan Mazurek, was intended to prove that Brussels is “civilisationally lost”.

Both (now successful) EP candidates deliberately focused on recording people of darker skin or different faiths (based on their clothes) – they referred to the situation as a result of the Migration Pact. With xenophobic content, they tried to mobilise voters in favour of the 'patriots' who are to supposedly save Slovakia from such a manipulatively created enemy. Lívia Pavlíková (also a candidate for Republika) also spoke about the ‘wickedness’ of Brussels in her video. Her scaremongering about the so-called LGBTI+ ideology is addressed below in the top posts section.

European policies and actions such as the Green Deal, emission quotas, the Migration Pact or even aid to Ukraine were also attacked in the last days of the EU election campaign. Once again, Republika's candidates were at the heart of this. In one of the videos, Milan Uhrík called these issues nonsense and also used them to attack Monika Beňová, who had voted for some of these measures in EP in the past. Ironically, he described the SMER-SSD candidate as "the most progressive Slovak MEP".

In another campaign content dedicated to the Migration Pact, the viewer is asked to imagine a situation where a migrant arrives at his home and he cannot get rid of him because of the EU. Scaremongering was also present in another joint video by Uhrík and Mazurek, in which they refer to the so-called rainbow resolutions (in relation to LGBTI+) threatening the traditional family. Who is the supposed main adversary? Again, progressivism and the decadent West, against which Slovakia needs to be protected.

The so-called progressives were also indirectly labelled as something deviant in another video, which again features Mazurek and Pavlíková. In addition, both MEP candidates played down the challenge of global warming and returned to one of the favourite topics of conspirators and critics of the EU – the regulation that Brussels is supposedly going to impose to force us to eat insects. This narrative has been propagated by the disinformation ecosystem for a long time and has been debunked several times. The aim is simple: to spread the spectre of Brussels' dictates and undermine trust in the EU.

Dangerous game with peace and war

Together with other candidates of the SMER-SSD party, Ľuboš Blaha used his rhetoric to create a binary image in which he portrayed the elections to the European Parliament as a decision between peace and war. In doing so, they followed a long-standing narrative that prime minister Robert Fico has also propagated in the recent past: that the EU (or the so-called Western democracies) supposedly support and deliberately prolong the mutual killing of Slavs in the war in Ukraine.

Slovakia, on the other hand, is supposed to be a pioneer of peace in Europe with its sovereign foreign policy (oriented towards all cardinal points of the world). This formula was also applied in the days before the elections, in which a vote for SMER-SSD was presented as a decision for peace and the opposition (especially the Progressive Slovakia party) was supposed to be a path to war. It can be said that similar scaremongering has already won the presidential elections for the ruling coalition. It is therefore not surprising that they have returned to this tactic now.

To illustrate this, we can use a few posts that Ľuboš Blaha published on his Telegram account. He was quite clear about how he perceived the elections: "these elections will be about whether there will be war or peace. And you are war, we are peace. Very simple".

This was no different in the case of Eduard Chmelar, an advisor to the prime minister and a dubious political analyst, who in one of his posts also commented on the 80th anniversary of the Allies' landing in Normandy. He described the US President's speech as militant and worthy of a terrorist leader. Chmelár downplayed the determination to stand up to Russian aggression, referring to the Soviet struggle against Nazism. At the end of his post, he tried to mobilise SMER-SSD voters – calling for defiance of the "perverted orders" of leaders like Joe Biden, who, according to Chmelár, only want war. He also described the US president as a "progressive" and thus indirectly linked him to the vulgarised label of Slovak opposition parties.

In one of his posts Blaha defended the label "liberal fascists", which he also uses to describe the opposition or the media – which he says "attack freedom of speech, recognize only one opinion, fanatically promote it, and would even kill for it." The new MEP went on to accuse them of resembling their "brown predecessors" (a reference to brownshirts) by dragging Slovakia into a war with Russia.

After days of calls for social reconciliation and acceptance of responsibility for the spread of hatred, similar content sounds paradoxical to say the least. Blaha continued to paint targets in the wake of Robert Fico's first speech after the attempted assassination. He agrees with the prime minister's assertion that "one of the sources of evil stems from the Western democracies, or Brussels, where they have launched a lynch mob against anyone who has a different opinion on the war on Ukraine." In another post, he accused the so-called Western democracies and liberals of a "growing inability to tolerate different opinion."

Blaha may lead his audience to the conspiratorial belief that mysterious foreign forces or so-called progressive hatred are behind the assassination attempt on Robert Fico. In doing so, he not only contributes to the deepening of conflicts in society, but also continues to mislead about the war in Ukraine. However, with his manipulative play on the words peace and war, irrespective of the consequences, he has primarily sought to mobilise his voters ahead of the elections.

Since posts containing narratives concerning the elections to the EP 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 "EU", "Brussels" or "elections". We excluded those posts that did not contain problematic narratives. Posts were evaluated based on the total number of interactions (the sum of all reactions, comments and shares).

top 5

The post with the most interactions was published by Robert Fico. In it, the prime minister calls for participation in the elections to the EP, logically motivating voters to vote for SMER-SSD candidates. He manipulatively builds his rhetoric on the already relatively well-established narrative that divides political forces into peaceful and warlike ones. Fico once again returns to the notion of the so-called great Western democracies, which in this case he accuses of wishing not for peace but for an escalation of tensions with Russia. In other words, he is accusing these Western states of warmongering and is again simplifying the situation in Ukraine. He indirectly describes aid to Ukraine as prolonging the conflict, offering precisely his fellow party members as a barricade against war.

The second post was published by Milan Uhrík. In the video, the chairman of the far-right movement spoke out against the proposal that the Slovak National Party (SNS) came up with after the attempted assassination of prime minister Fico. The proposal is intended to address hate speech on the internet and is based on verifying the identity of users (by identifying data, e.g. photographs or identity documents). Despite the fact that it is only a draft law, which is unlikely to become a reality due to its unfeasibility, Uhrík used it to scare his audience. He talked about introducing a "mandatory digital identity" and accused the SNS of failing to address the real problems of the people – which, according to Uhrík, are the hatred spread by the progressive media and NGOs in schools. With his post, the new MEP hit two birds with one stone - he manipulatively attacked not only the traditional targets of disinformation narratives (the media and NGOs), but also his electoral competitors.

The third post is a "report" from the pride parade in Brussels. It was published by Lívia Pavlíková, a candidate for the far-right Republika movement. At first glance, the video is manipulatively edited – it offers only those shots and reactions that can cause sensation or negative emotions. The respondents obviously do not know Pavlíková and neither do they know her motives or political beliefs. The unsuccessful candidate asked the pride parade participants about topics related to LGBTI+ issues that are largely vulgarised in the Slovak environment. These include issues such as the number of genders, the process of transition or the impact of the EU on these policies and rights. Pavlíková has deliberately focused on these topics – it is a practice-tested fact that a part of the Slovak population can be scared and manipulated into accepting a fictitious image of the value decadence of the West and Brussels. This was no different in this case.

The next post in the series was published on the official SMER-SSD Facebook page. The post is a re-sharing of the content of Ľuboš Blaha from Telegram. In the post, the fresh MEP wanted to object to the claim of MP Ľubomír Galko, who accused Blaha of spreading lies about "Bandera's Nazis" in connection with the war in Ukraine. The member of the SMER-SSD party labelled this statement as spreading hatred against his person and as calls for his liquidation. It must be acknowledged that Mr Galko did indeed use confrontational rhetoric in his post. Blaha, however, continued his response by attacking the media, which he accused of spreading conspiracy theories and fabrications. He refused to accept at least part of the responsibility for building hatred in Slovak society. On the contrary, even during the EP election campaign, together with Prime Minister Robert Fico (and the SMER-SSD party), he put himself in the position of a peacekeeper against whom an unfair battle is being waged because of his opinions. The reality is different, however, and our several years of reporting prove that Ľuboš Blaha is an important part of the Slovak disinformation ecosystem, which has been involved in spreading propaganda and hatred for a long time. Confronting his views and harmful activities is neither persecution nor an attempt to destroy him – on the contrary, it is legitimate criticism in a democratic society.

The last place belongs to Judita Laššáková, a well-known figure of the Slovak disinformation ecosystem and a candidate to the EP for the SMER-SSD party. In her video post, Laššáková returns to the assassination attempt on Robert Fico and attacks the Progressive Slovakia party. She accuses the party and media of conducting an unfair election campaign against the SMER-SSD party. She sees the EU elections as a turning point and is once again using the narrative of securing peace as part of her own party's rhetoric. In the video, Laššáková further rejects accusations that SMER-SSD candidates used the assassination of the prime minister to their advantage in the campaign. She also denies that the ruling party wants to drive Slovakia out of the EU. However, at least some of the claims made by the SMER-SSD candidates suggest otherwise – it is sufficient to recall the prime minister's statements about European support for the war between the Slavs or the incident when Ľuboš Blaha replaced the EU flag with a portrait of Che Guevara in his MP's office.

Disinformation peddlers continue to discredit the opposition. They view Fico as a martyr

A large part of the attention in the past two weeks has been attracted by posts concerning the attempted assassination of Prime Minister Robert Fico. The topic was already tied up with a number of manipulative claims and lies in the previous period, and it continued to serve as a tool for vilifying the opposition and intensive attacks against the media.

The prime minister himself, after a partial recovery, published a video in which he spoke of an assassination attempt by a "Slovak opposition activist". This became the main message of the disinformation agents in the following days, who continued to use the attack primarily to discredit the opposition party Progressive Slovakia (PS).

Fico said in the video that he forgives the attacker and feels no hatred towards him. At the same time, however, he used the situation to blame the opposition parties, which, in his view, had increased tensions and evil in society with their rhetoric. He stated that the attacker was merely "a messenger of the evil and political hatred that the politically unsuccessful and frustrated opposition has developed to unmanageable proportions in Slovakia". He went on to make the conspiratorial prediction that "the anti-government media, especially those co-owned by the Soros financial structure", but also "foreign-funded political NGOs" and the opposition would downplay the situation and deny links between the assassin and the political opposition. In the video, he himself repeatedly stressed the possibility of the assassin Juraj Cintula's links to opposition parties, but did not provide any concrete evidence.

Fico also reiterated the idea that it is necessary to respect other opinions – not to push the "politics of the only right opinion" or to forcibly export democracy to countries that want to go their own way. He was implicitly suggesting that he might have been the victim of an assassination attempt precisely because of his views and his desire to pursue a “confident sovereign foreign policy”. This narrative has appeared repeatedly in the content of various conspiracy and disinformation sources over the past weeks.

The fact that Fico published the video the day before the moratorium preceding the Slovak EP elections was highlighted in a Facebook post by his advisor and dubious political analyst Eduard Chmelár. He openly admitted that it was part of a political campaign on Fico's part, while he was strategically trying to support the SMER-SSD candidates. Chmelár praised Fico's stance and in his post he himself referred to the opposition as the culprit, which, in his opinion, "stubbornly refuses any co-responsibility". At the same time, Fico's advisor said that "opposition politicians, journalists, analysts and moralists of all kinds are throwing fire and brimstone at the strongest ruling party" while wrongly expecting the party leader to apologise and talk about reconciliation.

Similarly to Chmelár, accusations of the opposition and the media have also been made by Ľuboš Blaha. According to him, the media reacted childishly to Robert Fico's first speech after the assassination attempt, allegedly spreading hatred, using cheap phrases and attacking SMER-SSD. According to Blaha, Fico acted like a ‘man’ and a ‘statesman’ when he named the roots of evil: "Anyone who has a different opinion than the liberals is a target of hatred." According to the politician, the Western powers are to blame for this state of affairs. They are supposed to control the Slovak media and the opposition, which on this basis "heckled the street" and "created Cintula" [note: the attacker Juraj Cintula]. In addition, Blaha reached for his usual conspiratorial platitudes, claiming that Fico had named the truth about "creeping totalitarianism" and the "imperial instincts of the Western powers".

Like Fico, Blaha was following an older narrative about an alleged effort to criminalise the SMER-SSD party and shut down Robert Fico because of his peaceful views. For these, Blaha said, he was to "suffer more than any politician in Europe", which made him a martyr. The SMER-SSD vice-president sought to portray Fico as a hero who had acted courageously and magnanimously, while not being afraid to go against the tide. Blaha also sought to reinforce the symbol of the martyr in a post on the Telegram, where he praised Fico for "the best speech in his life", which he said the whole world had been waiting for. In that speech, Fico allegedly delivered "a hug of peace and freedom" and at the same time "an indictment of the Western powers".

In the aforementioned Facebook video, Blaha repeatedly claimed that the attacker, Juraj Cintula, was an "opposition activist" while calling on the "liberal pro-war camp" to repent and stop with the hatred. However, his entire emotion-laden speech was an attack on the opposition and, more specifically, on PS party leader Michal Šimečka. Similar attacks can be found in the posts of other disinformation actors. For example, György Gyimesi, currently an extra-parliamentary politician and member of the Maďarská aliancia (Hungarian Alliance) party, attributed to Šimečka "a share of guilt and responsibility for the murderous attack on Prime Minister Fico". His post also included the claim that "it was the media and the opposition that fanaticalised the shooter, that it was a premeditated attack by a determined oppositionist."

Journalists faced insults and personal attacks

As already mentioned, the traditional media have been attacked by disinformers primarily through their manufactured association with the assassination attempt on Robert Fico and the alleged incitement of hatred in society. During the period under review, we have seen attacks targeted primarily against the television channel Markíza, but also specifically against the presenter Michal Kovačič, who has long been the face of the political show Na telo.

The situation in the media escalated after the moderator used the space at the end of one of the debates to point out political pressures and the “orbanisation” of the media. Kovačič also spoke openly about the pressure from the management which tried to censor his show as well as the news section in order to select guests and avoid political confrontations. The TV management subsequently described the presenter's move as a breach of duty. Although many TV staff have expressed their support for him and staged a strike, the future of the show is uncertain. If it is relaunched, it is likely to happen after the summer break, and without Michal Kovačič.

Several disinformation actors have commented on the situation on social media. They mostly referred to the moderator as a representative of the interests of the political opposition. For example, according to minister of the environment Tomáš Taraba (SNS), so-called one-sided journalistic activism was supposed to have been cultivated in the Slovak media space for many years at the expense of honest journalism. Taraba does not specify in his article what he means by honest journalism and which media are (in a negative sense) activist in his opinion. However, he argued that this activism "is crying out in the media that it is no longer of interest in society".

Ľuboš Blaha, who wrote on the Telegram about his "embarrassing crying", also used a similar rhetorical turn of phrase against Kovačič, the long-time face of Markíza. In the post, Blaha claimed that Kovačič had "played the smartest man and started to abuse his position as a presenter at Markíza to bully left-wing politicians and spread liberal propaganda".

Blaha indirectly praised the move of the management of the television channel Markíza, which defined itself against Kovačič and foreshadowed his departure. The fact that the TV management attempted to censor the show and put pressure on the newsroom does not bother Blaha, as he approves of the management's actions as a crackdown on "a bunch of neoliberal activists who occupy Markíza". According to him, this group was supposed to turn the family television into a "jihadist cell of liberals against SMER". In the article, we thus once again find an attempt to stylise the SMER-SSD party and its members into the position of victims who should have been vilified by the media for a long time. According to the politician, it was Markíza that was the "symbol of media anti-government hatred" and thus allegedly bore a share of the blame for the assassination attempt on Robert Fico. Blaha's Telegram post was also shared by the official SMER-SSD Facebook page.

Other politicians and disinformers also commented on the situation regarding Kovačič, sparing no insults and accusations against the moderator. For example, Marián Kéry, a member of the SMER-SSD party, called Kovačič a "lackey" of the opposition and the liberal media. Kéry interpeted the fact that the presenter had founded a trade union on television as an effort to help "paralysed progressives from Progressive Slovakia in the European Parliament elections". The statement was taken from Monika Beňová's post shared on the SMER-SSD website. Beňová, who was re-elected MEP for the SMER-SSD party, said, among other things, that the clash which Kovačič "launched formally against the owners or the management of TV Markíza is his, and not only his, attempt to save the PS".

According to Igor Melicher, a member of SMER-SSD and state secretary of the ministry of defence, Kovačič's departure from television is supposed to be part of a "cleansing of ideological layers". These were to be built up by the presenter himself, i.e. "a politician who played journalist for six years". This is an identical ideological line to the one published by the aforementioned politicians Kéry and Beňová in their posts.

Igor Bukovský, a well-known disinformer who spread medical hoaxes, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic, added that Kovačič was "one of those who unleash cultural and ideological conflict in Slovakia". Bukovský sees a problem in the fact that the moderator allegedly remained silent at a time when Igor Matovič and Eduard Heger [note: both former prime ministers during the previous government] were supposed to impose censorship by shutting down disinformation media. At the same time, he referred to the situation when Markíza ended its cooperation with him in the field of popularising healthy eating, allegedly "on the basis of a political order". However, he compared incomparable situations, as he himself had presented statements in the online space with potentially dangerous consequences for public health. In the summer of 2020, he made claims that Covid-19 was a banal disease and questioned the need for anti-pandemic measures.

In addition to Kovačič, Veronika Cifrová Ostrihoňová, who previously worked as an editor and presenter at Markiza and RTVS (public broadcaster), has also been the target of attacks over the past two weeks. In the meantime, she was elected to the European Parliament on the PS' candidate list. György Gyimesi devoted a post containing personal attacks and misogynistic rhetoric to Cifrová Ostrihoňová.

He referred to the former journalist as a "blonde" who had studied history and political science in the US and in Paris in order to interview "Monika Tódová and Zuzana Čaputová about nipple stickers" on her show. The politician described her studies in the USA as "brainwashing" and "conscious tuning of her CV", which was supposed to foreshadow the journalist's transition into politics or onto the PS' candidate list. With such assertions, Gyimesi questioned any qualities of Cifrová Ostrihoňová, especially her education and media exposure. At the same time, he tried to associate her person with the negative portrayal of the so-called Bratislava liberalism and the promotion of Euro-Atlantic interests.

The above examples of attacks on the media and journalists credibly illustrate the hateful atmosphere and identify the actors behind its cultivation. At the same time, these are a continuation of efforts that have been visible in Slovakia since the 2023 parliamentary elections. The ostracisation of the traditional media, which began with the government's designation of them as 'public enemies', continues with further attempts to silence them. After the public media, the economic interests of the owners of TV Markíza seem to have succumbed to government pressure. The dissemination of hate and disinformation narratives against the media and journalists has been and will continue to be an important part of similar efforts by the ruling coalition.


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.