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
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 of the tensions that infect the Czech political landscape date back to 1997. The Civil Democratic Party (ODS) had won the parliamentary election in 1996, but with a reduced majority. The party formed a coalition government with the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) but the latter withdrew its support in November 1997 after the ODS became engulfed by financial scandals. Later that year, disaffected members of the ODS attempted to take over the party. But the plan failed when former dissident, Jan Ruml, failed to dislodge Václav Klaus as leader of the ODS in December that year. In January 1998, Ruml and others who had also left the ODS, founded a new party, the Freedom Union, Unie Svobody (US).
To overcome the impasse that resulted from the collapse of the coalition, an agreement was reached whereby the president would appoint an interim government on condition that parliamentary elections are held in June 1998. This government, led by a new prime minister, the head of the Czech National Bank, Josef Tošovský contained many of the ODS dissidents now in the US.
The question of future inflows of people from EU accession-states likely to join the EU in 2004/05 was avoided in the campaign. From this Group’s experience and recent opinion polls in candidate countries like Poland or Slovakia, Sweden may expect a marked increase in arrivals from its neighbors across the Baltic. Up to 7 million Poles are expected to seek work in the existing EU states after Poland’s accession (regardless of any rules limiting free movement of labour which might be conditions of entry). Migration on this scale cannot help but be a socio-economic issue in the politics of the existing member states like Sweden. Left-wing parties like the Marxist KPML (r), which has a strong municipal presence in Gothenburg also find themselves largely invisible in the established media even if they would share the established media’s revulsion at the Swedish Democrats’ views. On the question of immigration, the extra-Parliamentary left seems divided between those who see accepting an influx of foreigners and defending their right to maintain their own identity as an act of solidarity, and those who fear that wages and social conditions will be eroded by the import of a “reserve army of labour” as Marx himself might have characterized it.
HITS: 2035 | 30-10-2002, 04:32 | Comments: (0) | Categories: Sweden , Media World, Foreign media
Parties which are outside the centre-left/centre-right consensus, even though not necessarily particularly hard left or right find it difficult to get access to the media whether in its news coverage or advertising space. The high cost of newspaper and journal distribution through the PressByran network which appears to have an effective monopoly on retail outlets for news and current affairs makes marginal viewpoints still more marginal in Sweden. The Swedish Democrats complain that their attempts to place advertisements have been boycotted by the news media. According to the Swedish Democrats some media refuse their materials point blank, while others invoke their need to show solidarity with an informal media “blackout” of the “extremists”. Private media may have the right to pick and choose whom they permit to advertise, but when nationwide public organizations like Swebus choose to provide a platform for some but not other legal parties then the fairness of the campaign may be drawn into doubt.
A new report by the International Federation of Journalists is highly critical of the media situation in Hungary. BHHRG considers the allegations behind the report and asks whether the Czech scenario could be repeated in Budapest. Introduction
Following the successful rebellion at the state television in the Czech Republic (see BHHRG report Turmoil at Czech Television) there have been numerous suggestions that similar disruptions will follow in Hungary. In particular, the International Federation of Journalists, which supported the rebels in Prague, has issued a report harshly criticising the state of the media there ("Television on the Brink: the political and professional crisis of public broadcasting in Hungary"). As the sudden flare-up in Prague shows, events can occur very quickly and their speed helps to obscure the real issues at stake. BHHRG representatives, therefore, travelled to Budapest to investigate the media situation in Hungary. In the Czech republic, the sudden way in which the rebellion against the appointment of George Hodac as the new director of Czech TV broke out managed to obscure the fact that the real issues at stake were different from that which was reported in the Western media. As the BHHRG report shows, it owed little to any urge to ensure free speech and instead a lot to the desire to prevent restructuring of Czech TV and a proper financial audit being conducted into its rambling financial affairs. In Prague, there was also the additional ingredient of President Havel, who supported the strikers and whose penchant for "non-political politics" helped to change the system by which the TV council is composed, removing representatives nominated by political parties. These two elements - unclear finances and the role of political parties in the TV and radio councils - are both present in Hungary. This is why the forces who supported the putsch against Hodac in Prague may also think that similar results can be obtained in Budapest.