In the Czech Republic, freedom of the press is threatened by the high concentration of privately owned media and the pressure exerted on public broadcasting.
The media landscape is characterized by three main trends: significant concentration of large media groups (PPF, MAFRA) in the hands of major economic players, including former Prime Minister Andrej Babiš since the beginning of 2010; the rise of new independent media (HlídacíPes, Deník N, etc.) in response to this recent development; and the strong presence of respected public media (Česká televize, Český rozhlas), but subject to increasing political pressure.
The pressure exerted on journalists in recent years has been essentially verbal, with some political actors not hesitating to ride the current wave of distrust of the media.Pressure on journalists in recent years is essentially verbal. Some political leaders eagerly exploit the current wave of distrusting the media.
Free access to information is guaranteed by law. But President Miloš Zeman, known for his distrust of the press, refuses to respond (or responds minimally) to questions from media deemed overly critical. The new government is drafting a proposal to change the duties of regulatory councils for publicly owned media and to strengthen their independence and step up their diversity of opinion.
No public subsidy system exists, and with advertising revenue decreasing, privately owned media are increasingly financing themselves by monetising content. Small, independent media resort to financing from non-profit organisations and private foundations. Publicly owned media are financed by way of household broadcast fees, but these have not been increased for the past 15 years. Some politicians are trying to lower or eliminate them.
One of the two major national dailies is owned by Babiš, a billionaire who became finance minister, and then prime minister between 2014 and 2017. His political presence has forced his media properties to strike a delicate balance in the coverage of political coverage. Unrestrained attacks on journalists from the highest ranks of government, especially President Zeman, has led to citizens’ growing distrust of journalists.
Attacks on journalists are essentially verbal – online insults or threats, mostly anonymous, which have increased as the Covid-19 crisis has intensified the polarisation of opinion. Some women journalists have been the direct targets of hate-filled comments.