BHHRG

About BHHRG

The British Helsinki Human Rights Group monitors human rights and democracy in the 57 OSCE member states from the United States to Central Asia.
* Monitoring the conduct of elections in OSCE member states.
* Examining issues relating to press freedom and freedom of speech
* Reporting on conditions in prisons and psychiatric institutions

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Czech Media during elections in 2002
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Much of the Czech media is now owned by foreign companies, mainly from Germany, Switzerland and France. In their editorial policies, most leading broadsheets (Mladá Fronta Dnes, Lidové Noviny, Hospodářské Noviny) support the US and the reform wing of the ČSSD. Only Právo on the left is (mildly) critical of the status quo. This means that the major opposition party, the ODS, has no support from any leading newspaper. The situation is similar for the Communist Party: the third largest party in the Czech Republic with the largest membership has the support of only one small, low-circulation newspaper – Hálo noviny. While this state of affairs would be unheard of in most other leading European democracies, Czech journalists see nothing peculiar about it. As for television, state TV supports the status quo whereas the Czech Republic’s most popular station, TV Nova, is seen as looking more favourably on the ODS. Many people think this is the reason why the station’s owner Vladimir Železný has been remorselessly pursued by the dubious claims of creditors from abroad and disaffected business partners at home.

There is also a close connection between people in the media and the power structures. For example, the investigative weekly Respekt is owned by former Havel confidant, Prince Karl (Kari) Schwarzenberg. Its previous editor, Vladimír Mlynář, named as Minister of Information in the new government, also served as a minister in the 1998 transitional government; his father Zdeněk Mlynář was a reform Communist and leading figure in the Prague Spring. 18 months ago, Martin Schmarcz, a leading reporter on Mladá Fronta Dnes was chief spokesman for the strikers at Czech TV. Jiří Pehe, a former journalist with Radio Free Europe always provides a quote for foreign journalists visiting Prague. Pehe is close to Havel – he once acted as an official advisor to the president. He was also a founder signatory of the Impuls petition in 1999. In other words, nearly every opinion piece about the Czech Republic written in the English-speaking world is filtered through the manifestly partisan figure of Pehe.

On top of all this, the two leading opinion pollsters in Prague were both signatories of the Impuls petition.

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