Thursday 6 June 2024 - Monocle Minute | Monocle

Thursday. 6/6/2024

The Monocle Minute

The Opinion

Front and centre: Robert Fico

Image: Getty Images

Media / Alexei Korolyov

Slovakia’s government is clamping down on press independence. It’s up to the media to fight for its freedom

On 26 May, Slovakian television presenter Michal Kovacic ended an episode of his political show, Na Telo, with a warning. Addressing his viewers, he said that there was a growing “Orbánisation” of Slovak media, a reference to the limited press freedoms in neighbouring Hungary under its prime minister, Viktor Orbán. Markíza, the privately owned TV station that airs the show, sacked Kovacic with immediate effect. In Bratislava the following day, many Slovaks were still reeling from what one described to me as a “moment of truth” beamed into households across the small Central European country.

The incident came just a few days after an assassination attempt on Slovakia’s prime minister, Robert Fico, which his allies quickly blamed on a climate of hate created by the liberal opposition and unfriendly media. For months before the attack, Fico, who was elected to power for the fourth time last autumn on a promise to shield Slovakia from foreign influence, had refused to speak to “hateful liars” from the “enemy media”, at one point including myself. In a strange coincidence, the shooting happened in the same week that the Slovak parliament began debating Fico’s proposal to put the country’s public broadcaster, RTVS, under state control. The attack seems to have redoubled the government’s determination to go ahead with it. But doesn’t a free and independent press act as a bulwark against precisely this kind of extremist behaviour?

The RTVS reform is expected to be passed this month and in Bratislava’s iconic Radio Building, there is a feeling of gloom and uncertainty. “We are afraid that this new management will push government ideology into our broadcasting,” said Sona Weissova, RTVS’s head of world news. “There has to be some action similar to that of our colleague Michal Kovacic but, so far, the courage is not there.” While it’s hard for journalists to show dissent, Slovaks should beware. In a country already suffering from political polarisation, less media freedom will inevitably lead to more democratic backsliding and violence.

Alexei Korolyov is Monocle’s Vienna correspondent. For more opinion, analysis and insight, subscribe to Monocle today.

The Briefings

Onwards and upwards? Former member of the dissolved Future Forward Party, Piyabutr Saengkanokkul

Image: Getty Images

Politics / Thailand

New documentary captures the turbulence of Thai politics

A snapshot of Thailand’s turbulent politics will hit the big screen today with the cinematic release of Breaking the Cycle. The documentary by co-directors Aekaphong Saransate and Thanakrit Duangmaneeporn tells the story of the Future Forward Party, the upstart political group that rocked the conservative elite in the country’s 2019 elections. The party was subsequently dissolved by the constitutional court, which imposed a 10-year political ban on founder Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit (who Monocle profiled in 2019).

Under the leadership of Pita Limjaroenrat, the group changed its name to the Move Forward Party (MFP) in 2020 and finished first in last year’s elections. Now, Thai authorities have taken action to disband the party on the basis that it would change the country’s strict royal-defamation laws. Spoiler alert: the documentary’s title, Breaking the Cycle, is more aspirational than factual. “Déjà vu” would be more accurate. The conservative elite continues to direct Thailand’s ongoing political drama – and a court victory for the MFP would count as a Hollywood ending.


Express delivery: Paris Métro extension to open ahead of the Olympics

Emmanuel Macron will inaugurate the extension of the Paris Métro’s Line 14 on 24 June, one month ahead of the Olympic Games. The line has been extended in two directions, linking Paris-Orly Airport in the south to the new Saint-Denis-Pleyel station in the north. The service is part of a larger public-transport renovation project called the Grand Paris Express, which was launched in 2009 by the then president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Valérie Pécresse, president of the regional council of Île-de-France, addresses journalists

Image: Getty Images

Inside job: The interior of the new Thiais-Orly station

Image: Getty Images

The improvements will allow visitors to travel from the airport to the city centre in just 25 minutes, with some 200,000 passengers expected to pass through Saint-Denis-Pleyel every day. Despite Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo’s warning that the transport system would not be ready this year, it seems that the extension is on track – just in time for the Olympics.

Fashion / Global

Miu Miu’s latest event does things by the book

Tomorrow, Miu Miu will launch Summer Reads, an event that celebrates seasonality and fine print. The label will take over newsstands in cities across the world, debuting newly constructed pop-up kiosks and reading patios, where it will give out literary classics and branded ice lollies. Visitors will be gifted works by influential women in literature, including Alba de Céspedes’s Forbidden Notebook, Sibilla Aleramo’s A Woman and Jane Austen’s Persuasion. You can catch Summer Reads on 7 and 8 June at the Covent Garden Piazza in London, Seine kiosks in Paris or Lowide Coffee Bakery in Seoul. It’s a fun project that captures the brand’s intellectual spirit and commitment to supporting culture, even when there are no commercial returns.

Beyond the Headlines

Q&A / Antonis Malaxianakis

A sea change for the shipping industry?

Posidonia 2024, one of the biggest international shipping exhibitions, is taking place this week in Athens, bringing together leading figures from across the industry. Here, Monocle speaks to one of this year’s keynote speakers, Antonis Malaxianakis, whose company, Harbor Lab, provides shipowners with a digital platform to simplify port-cost management. His business, which recently raised $16m (€14.6m) in funding, has been hailed as a major innovator.

Have you always wanted to be part of this industry?
When I was young, my mother used to read me stories about Aristotle Onassis, the great Greek shipowner. About 20 per cent of all ships in the global market are owned by people in Greece, which is full of people with a family connection to shipping. But you have to be born into it. When I was asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I was very unpopular for saying “a shipowner”.

Does the archaic nature of the shipping industry make innovation difficult?
Yes. In 2013 I was employed to manually check disbursement accounts that paid port authorities across the world. The process was laborious; we had to contact ports directly and ask them to send us details of their tariffs. Sometimes these documents were 200 pages long, all written in the local language of the port. I have checked more than 20,000 accounts in total. At the time, I was seen as an innovator for introducing Excel.

Do you ever look back at how far you have come?
It’s a dream come true. Thankfully, I have had great mentors who really wanted to change the industry and believed in me. Now, along with other founders, I would like to create an ecosystem of start-ups in Athens. As a nation, we are hungry. We want to succeed.

For our full interview with Antonis Malaxianakis, tune in to the latest episode of ‘The Entrepreneurs’ on Monocle Radio.

Monocle Radio / The Foreign Desk

Claudia Sheinbaum

Mexico has elected its first female president, Claudia Sheinbaum. But, as Andrew Mueller explains, she has really been elected to continue the legacy of incumbent president Andrés Manuel López Obrador.


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