Censorship in Czech media

Discussion in 'Business' started by ChaCha, Mar 9, 2009.

  1. ChaCha

    ChaCha New Member

    Hello! I am a freelance journalist who will be in Prague next week, doing a report on censorship in Czech media.

    Recently, a law was passed criminalizing the publishing of police wiretaps in the news, fining journalists 180,000 euros or up to 5 years in jail.
    In addition, journalist Sabina Slonkova was fined for not revealing her sources last year, stating she had a right to protect the confidentiality of her sources.

    Many feel this is a threat to the democratic principles of freedom of speech, something the government should uphold, considering their role in the EU presidency.

    I would like to meet with anyone who knows about this topic, and heard this was a good way to get in contact with people.

    Please let me know if you can help me out, I speak only English but will have a translator on hand.

    Sarah Chase
  2. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    Much ado about nothing, it is not as hot as the journalists try to depicture it.

    First, the new law is not about police wiretaps in particular, but about any confidential information from public administration or criminal proceedings. Its purpose is to protect the constitutional right of privacy.

    Second, there is pretty big consensus among lawyers and lawmakers that the new regulation is less strict than the former one.
    The publishing of police wiretaps is illegal as it was before (there is another law about wiretapping in particular). The journalist who never protested against the old regulation, and now protest against the new one, are nothing but hypocrites.
    There are more or less only two changes:

    1) Newly, the act is illegal if and only if it inflicts considerable injury. Formerly, it was illegal always, hence the new regulation is less strict.
    2) The new regulation pinpoints explicitly that the regulation applies for the information from criminal proceedings. The old regulation was loose in this respect as it was only about the public administration.

    The journalists like to speak about public interest, but there is any public interest in publishing private information about victims of crimes, neither of the people who are accused of something. They are free to publish the information once it is published in court, but not before. It is enough that the information is available to the responsible state bodies (police, justice…). Publishing of such a information could be acceptable maximally to prove the inactivity of the state bodies, but that’s an extreme example and the court is entitled to rule out that the regulation doesn’t apply here as the publishing is in public interest.

    The problem with the Czech journalist is that they use the public interest as an universal excuse to publish anything. They want to usurp the court’s power to decide what is in public interest.

    In addition, the journalists fail to understand that the public interest is not automatic excuse for infringement of somebody’s rights. There is also the proportionality principle which says that the infringement is acceptable only as last resort if all other measures fail.

    This is a case unrelated to the new law as the Slonková’s information was not from legal police investigation but from illegal recording.
    But is is an excellent example of the journalist ignoring the proportinality principle. Slonková published an illegal tape as evidence of the meeting of President’s Chancellor with one of the Ex-PM’s lobbyists. The problem is that both the persons admited the meeting and thus no extreme measure was needed.
    Slonková’s source was illegal. She was fined rightfully for protecting the crime.

    No, it is balancing between the freedom of speech and the right of privacy. The journalist’s claims are one-sided.

    Most people agree that the regulation is not good, but there is nothing unconstitutional neither undemocratical on it.

    The law was passed by the Parliament and should be interpreted by the courts. Government has no role in it.

    …and considering the global warming and the economic crisis. :roll: :roll:

    You should consult rather some legal experts than the journalists. Here is a blog on the topic by Tomáš Sokol, a prominent Czech advocate and former Minister of Interior. My comments here mostly coincides with Sokol’s opinion.
  3. wer

    wer Well-Known Member

    It’s one of the top topics in Czech media.

    I don’t know whether he wants some publicity, but at least you could ask him for permission to quote from his blog or something like that.

    The only contact I found is the contact to his office, not to him personally. See the home page.

    You should also have a look on the actual wording of the regulation. The best source are most likely the Senat’s prints. Notice also the reasoning of Senat’s rejection. Everything is on http://www.senat.cz, but naturally it is all in Czech.

    Read also the President’s reactions on the topic:

    Answer of the President of the Republic to the chairman of the Czech Syndicate of Journalists Miroslav Jelínek
    Response of the President of the Republic to the letter of editors of Czech media

    Here is my translation of the first letter by President (Please consider it is not official translation, but my translation full of mistakes):

    Well, and if you find me too one-sided 8), you could contact the Czech Syndicate of Journalists. They are evidently eager to share their opinions.

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