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18.10.2019

Czech Republic needs to urgently address problem of press freedom

by Jane Whyatt

Political interference, hate speech aimed at journalists, low pay and lack of resources are causing serious problems in the Czech Republic’s media system. Fact-finders from four international organisations including the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom have produced a report highlighting their concerns. 

Czech Republic needs to urgnetly address problem of press freedom Newspapers on sale in the Czech capital Prague. Photo:ECPMF

Positive recommendations from the mission include: EU and international funding to support quality investigative, local and regional journalism, a review of the Lex Babiš law, which aims to prevent politicians dominating the media market and measures to defend the independence of Public Service Media. 

The recent censorship case involving the series The Mathematics of Crime and Czech Radio is an example of how the broadcaster can be manipulated in order to avoid publishing podcasts that make uncomfortable listening for powerful people – even though the journalists who made the podcast series have won a national award! 

 

Fact finding Mission CZECH REPUBLIC

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) joined a fact-finding mission to the Czech Republic in October 2019, building on the findings of the ECPMF NEWSOCRACY conference in Prague, December 2018.

Together with the European Federation of Journalists, Syndicate of Journalists of Czech Republic, European Broadcasting Union and the Nordic Association of News Publishers, the mission identified six elements that if changed and improved, would have positive impacts on press and media freedom in the country.

  1. It was made very clear that the prime ministers close link to the media he used to own is totally unacceptable for a democracy;
  2. The second element was about public service media, where it is too easy for the parliament and the government through the system interlinking of adopting annual reports and electing councils to put pressure on the media;
  3. Self-regulatory bodies are too fragmented to have a real impact for ethical standards and because of that, there is a need for a review.
  4. Local media are in a very difficult position leaving a big part of the citizens without real independent impartial information on local interests, which has a negative impact on taking part in local debates and democracy;
  5. Journalists and editors themselves have to take a more serious responsibility for their profession;
  6. As an overall theme as a part of all above mentioned themes, financing of media has to be addressed both within public service media and private media.

You can download a copy of the full fact-finding mission report with details of all the contributors here