CZECH REPUBLIC: recent developments threat the traditionally enabling environment for media

(CIVICUS MonitorAs previously covered on the CIVICUS Monitor, recent developments are posing a threat to the traditionally enabling and protective environment for media in the Czech Republic. Media experts believe that much like everywhere else in the region, independent journalism is under pressure in the Czech Republic, as leading politicians portray critical media as enemies of the national interest and as powerful local business people buy up independent media outlets.

As Vaclav Štětka, a media sociologist at Charles University and Loughborough University, told the Czech Republic’s public radio broadcaster Český rozhlas, opinions that were previously on the edge of public discourse are moving closer and closer to the centre. Speeches and opinions that were previously considered unacceptable, xenophobic, hateful or racist and that were previously rejected by the public now fill the mainstream media and social networks. Lucie Rybova, Executive Director of the Czech Helsinki Committee, also finds the rise in xenophobic statements or racially offensive rhetoric “alarming”.

Criminal prosecution of hate speech is a controversial issue among human right defenders in the Czech Republic. As previously reported, Czech law includes potential prison terms for people convicted of denying the Holocaust. Hate speech based on race, religion, class, nationality, or other group affiliation can be a criminal offense. In November 2017, activist Jan Cemper filed a complaint after Jaroslav Staník, the secretary for the SDP, allegedly declared that “Jews, homosexuals and gypsies should be gassed”.  The case is currently under investigation.

In addition, anti-Roma sentiments are not exceptional among leading Czech politicians. Czech President Miloš Zeman recently told the Barrandov cable television that 90 percent of the people who refuse jobs offered to them even though they are absolutely healthy are probably Romani.

Original article by CIVICUS Monitor