Report on the explosive atmosphere in the sphere of public service media in the Czech Republic - English version

I would like to draw your attention to contemporary situation of public service media in the Czech Republic.
You certainly noticed that parliamentary election in October last year won a party named Ano (it means “Yes” in translation) whose leader Andrej Babiš is a very rich businessman. His main thesis regarding way how to govern the state is: The state must be governed the same way as a business company. Babiš is the owner of a huge agricultural concern and he uses his political power as an instrument for extending his material possession.
During the last four years Babiš started very intensively to influence the public opinion. He bought several important newspapers and journals (concentrated in publishing house MAFRA), the popular private radio Impuls, bought several journalists which are able to support every time everybody (if it is profitable). Step by step he has fed the broad public with populist promises, lies, and discrediting of his opponents. With this arsenal of real populist weapons Babiš won the 2017 general election with 30% of voters.
He won in spite of the fact that he has been for several months under the investigation of police for suspicion that he made a big financial fraud with EU grants.
He won in spite of the fact that the broader public knows that Babiš was demonstrably the cooperator of the state secret police during the former communist regime – state secret police was the same as Stasi in DDR. This fact was confirmed by the Court.
Can you imagine that the leader with such parameters could become a prime minister in any really democratic country?
But the Czech president – recently voted again for his second presidency – president Miloš Zeman appointed Andrej Babiš as a Prime minister. In this role Babiš tries to assemble the government. Vainly till now. Democratic parties don’t want to participate in a coalition with a man who is investigated for relevant suspicion. But – Babiš still has support from the Czech president.
And now – the most important message from the point of view of public service media. The Prime minister (governing without the trust of parliament) started an intensively assault against public service media in Czech, first of all against Czech TV. President Zeman became the firm ally of Babiš in this fight.
During his inauguration speech (during this ceremonial and historically important moment) Zeman stated several severe attacks against journalists and mainly against Czech public service TV. Those attacks were put forward without relevant proofs. Zeman accused journalists from Czech TV for manipulating the public opinion , for lack of objectivity, for cooperation with one political party…
Sure – those attacks are targeting on those part of journalists who try to disclose all very dangerous interconnections between politics and dark business spheres. On those journalists which are not properly loyal towards high level politicians. On those journalists which are not compliant to shut up and only blankly praise the “upper political class”.
Those conjoined attacks against public service media and also against other disobedient journalists are very serious attempts to restrict freedom of speech in our country.
The main goal of this part of political establishment (under the leading of president Zeman) is to silence inconvenient journalists and to get under control the whole media space. If you think that Mr. Babiš can´t buy Czech TV or Czech Radio, because it would be against the law, you are wrong. He doesn’t need to buy it. Prezident Zeman gave him openly this advice: if the parliament refuses twice to adopt the annual economic report of Czech TV, it can withdraw the Czech TV Council. Then the parliament selects new Council members (members who are totally loyal to leading party), this new Council can withdraw the present management of Czech TV and install the new one. The loyal one.
This scenario leading to the mastery of Czech public service TV is very simple. But many people realized the danger. Those steps of President and Prime Minister arouse massive protests of the public. For the first time after the so-called velvet revolution in 1989 people went out on the streets of many Czech cities and very loudly expressed their resistance against recent political developments.
Yesterday – on Wednesday 14. March – a big demonstration is called together on the Venceslav Square in the center of Prague. The main topic of this demonstration is to defend Czech TV and also to defend principals of freedom of speech. There were about 4 thousands people pm the square.
Sure – we realize that similar serious attempts to limit freedom of speech are recognizable also in other European countries. We know that this all is the result of failing and loss of credibility of traditional partys’ programs. But it seems that the patience of citizens with undemocratic steps of political representation is approaching an end.
You all certainly know about the tragic events which happened in Slovakia. Two weeks ago a young journalist and his girlfriend were murdered by an unknown murder. There are rightful assumptions that the death of this 27 years old journalist is connected with his investigative activity.
I want to call all of you – try to do all we can – to avert disadvantageous developments in the sphere of our activity which we are witnessing almost across the whole of Europe.

Jiri Hubicka
chairman of OSMedia, Czech Republic

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