Czech Republic: RSF decries violence against reporters by president’s staff

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Czech authorities to condemn yesterday’s physical violence against journalists by members of President Milos Zeman’s staff, because it was unworthy of a democracy.

Since yesterday evening, social networks and TV channels have been showing video footage of the incident, in which presidential aides pushed and punched journalists in an attempt to prevent them filming a supporter who fainted and collapsed as the presidential election results were announced.

The videos show how an aide told a reporter to stop filming, jostled him and threw his camera to the ground. A few seconds later, a second aide told a reporter: “Go away, take your stuff and go to [losing presidential candidate Jiri] Drahos.” He then threw a couple of punches at his face.

The reporter said: “This won’t do, I’ll call the police.” Responding, “I’ll be happy to fight you,” the aide continued to attack the reporter while colleagues tried to reason with him and pull him away. The first aide then jostled a reporter for the website Seznam and threw his smartphone to the ground to stop him filming.

We strongly condemn the attacks against several journalists as President Zeman’s reelection victory was being announced,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk.

It is unacceptable that the supporters of a political leader of this level physically assaulted journalists who were just doing their job, which is to report the news. Such behaviour is unworthy of a democracy and the Zeman camp must publicly condemn this violence.”

President Zeman is in the habit of insulting and threatening the media. At a news conference last October, he greeting journalists with dummy Kalashnikov. A few weeks before that, he threatened to “get rid of” a reporter. In May, he said journalists should be “liquidated” because “there are too many of them.” Apparently encouraged by such comments, his aides and supporters are now physically attacking reporters.

Long regarded as a model of integration into the European Union, the Czech Republic is nowadays a source of growing concern about the threats to media freedom, concern that has been reinforced by yesterday’s violence.

The Czech Republic is ranked 23rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

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Updated on 31.01.2018