Come on Czech Republic, why so low?

The country drops in the global ranking of press freedom all the way to the 40th position

Come on Czech Republic, why so low?

The Czech Republic has dropped in this year’s global ranking of press freedom all the way to the 40th position, which represents another six-spot decline since the year 2018. The country has an index score of 24.89, which is still constituting a marginally satisfactory situation, but in the opinion of some Czech journalists, also a significant step back.

Over the last few years, the country has moved 27 places down, representing a substantial decrease from when it held its 13th position between the years 2014 and 2015 and thus belonged to the top twenty of the total number of 180 countries ranked according to the level of freedom for journalists.

The reasons behind this fall are publicly unclear and that is why we asked two well-known Czech journalists on their opinion on the current state of Czech media as well as tried to look into their everyday work to help us understand what it’s like to be a journalist in one of the former communist countries.

Jaroslav Kmenta (50), a very successful investigative journalist who has been dealing with political cases and uncovering corruption in the country for years, said that it is the oligarchizing of the media that caused the sudden drop and changed the atmosphere and work ethic in the editorial offices all over the Czech Republic.

“After 2012, large billionaires began to buy up media companies with direct or indirect influence on politics. This created a different climate and it was no longer possible to criticize and objectively analyze all political and economic entities as before,” said Kmenta.

The second reason he shared was according to him a particular behavior of some politicians and the promoting of their personal interests through close links with the media. Kmenta specifically mentioned one and that is the country’s Prime Minister Andrej Babis and his ownership of nearly 30 percent of the private media, who is incidentally accused of a conflict of interest over the European funds used for the sake of his own private company – Agrofert.

“Politicians, who are in the lead positions should not own media or be connected to it,” he said. “Andrej Babis owns the two most influential newspapers with the highest circulation in the country. Therefore, he has his own media to present his own agenda, while the others – the antipole in representation of the public media and the Czech National TV in particular – he very much ignores.”

According to a questionnaire answered by fifty people from various areas of the country, twenty-nine of them had said that the media in the Czech Republic now cannot be considered free precisely because they are used for a negative political propaganda, against which the country alongside many other political issues – such as violating of the Constitution or influencing the judiciary proceedings by the members of the government – regularly protests.

An aspiring 26-year-old reporter for the Czech National Television, Linda Bartosova (26), had shared with us that for the Czech Republic in order to move back up in the table and re-occupy a dignified position, people need to be more interested in what they read on a daily basis and whether it is supported by legitimate evidence. She also thinks that there should generally be a bigger awareness of what’s happening on the Czech media scene.

“All the present happenings that are continually weakening the independence of the media and the transformation of the media market in the Czech Republic have made it impossible to blindly count on automatic media freedom and thus must be fought for by everyone,” said Bartosova.

By Anna Dohnalova

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