Analysis of the News: “American analyst: Western media to blame for radicalization and assassination of Fico”

May 2024.

As part of the program Regional Initiative for combating disinformation “Western Balkans Combatting disinformation Center: Exposing malicious influences through fact-checking and Analytical Journalism“, we present you a new analysis of fake news and disinformation narratives.

American analyst: Western media to blame for radicalization and assassination of Fico

On May 15, the European public was shaken by the news of the attempted assassination of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico. Robert Fico was seriously wounded in an assassination attempt on him in the town of Handlova, near the capital Bratislava, after a meeting of the Slovak Government. Fico, who formed his fourth coalition government at the end of 2023 and returned to power after five years, was targeted by the 71-year-old writer and former security guard who inflicted gunshot wounds on him at close range.

According to official information, the Slovak prime minister is in a serious but stable condition. The assassin was detained and according to court documents, it was confirmed that he acted alone and did not inform anyone of his intentions. It is stated that he fundamentally disagreed with the policies of the new Fico government, from the rejection of military aid to Ukraine, through the abolition of prosecutorial institutions to the persecution of the media, and that he decided two days before the assassination “to take revenge on the government for its policies by inflicting injuries on the prime minister.”

Due to the steps taken by the Slovak authorities in the direction of strengthening control over the media and pressure on independent judicial institutions, Robert Fico has been under fire from the opposition and EU officials, and his pro-Russian views and decisions on suspending aid to Ukraine caused special controversy. Nevertheless, this very fact was used by some pro-government and pro-Russian media in Serbia to, in an anti-Western tone, speculate about the supposedly “real” motives and reasons behind the assassination of Fico.

Illustrative is the news published by the Serbian-language portal of the Russian state media Russia Today, in which the analysis of an American commentator under the title “Western media is blamed for radicalization and the assassination of Fico.” RT reports the statement of analyst Andrew Koribko that “when the leader repeatedly slandered as a traitorous pro-Russian dictator…mentally unstable members of society will inevitably be influenced…to the point of wanting to kill them to save the country and take justice into their own hands.”

While the text retains some insinuations that the assassin potentially “did not act alone as Fico made very powerful enemies around the world during his last term,” the dominant focus is that the “fake news” peddled by Western and pro-Western media in Slovakia about Robert Fico and his political decisions radicalized people. “The shooter convinced himself that it was a legitimate form of protest…(and his) perception was completely shaped by fake news spread by certain media,” RT continues.

It is pointed out that the “Western” media and non-governmental organizations will not take responsibility for the radicalization of the opposition in Slovakia, and that “they are now insidiously manipulating by stating that their previous reports on Fico’s policy were fair and balanced, but the reality is that they knew what they were doing all along.” Additionally, the analyst concludes, drawing political parallels, that “what they did to Fico was the same thing they’ve been doing to Trump for years…they’re pushing the most extreme fear-mongering claims about his policies in hopes of radicalizing someone to kill him.”

Increasing polarization is becoming, in fact, a problem of political life in Slovakia, however, according to local experts, the ruling political elites are the ones who are not capable of sending signals of de-radicalization. It is suggested that the ruling parties of Robert Fico and his far-right coalition partner are the leading generators of polarization, due to their attacks on civil society and independent media, and baseless accusations of the opposition and promotion of disinformation. The statements of numerous high-ranking officials after the attempted assassination of Fico, which openly inflame tensions, are an illustrative example of this.

Author: Igor Mirosavljević