The International Press Institute (IPI) today joined with its Czech National Committee to call on the government in Prague to redesign its system for online press conferences during Covid-19 to ensure critical media outlets are given fair access for questioning government representatives.
In the letter, sent today to Tünde Bartha, who manages the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, IPI’s National Committee criticized the way the digital press conferences were still being held and called for better representation for different media.
It noted that outlets critical of the government, such as the online publication Forum 24, had repeatedly been denied accreditation to participate since March this year, when press conferences were switched to a purely online format due to social distancing rules.
The letter, signed by the chair of the National Committee, Michal Klima and supported by IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi, raised concerns that the current system appeared to favour selected news media and discriminate against others based on critical coverage.
“In times of coronavirus crisis and emergency, communication of government measures is extremely important”, it said. “We therefore find it completely unacceptable that the government is still limiting the range of media with which it is willing to communicate in this situation.
“Such a restriction is selective access to government press conferences, which is provided only to selected news media. Given that these press conferences currently take place via remote communication, there is no reason to refuse access to the news media seeking to attend government press conferences.
“This is especially unacceptable if it is demonstrably a high-profile media. The Internet daily Forum 24 has repeatedly, but to no avail, applied for accreditation since March this year. Given that this is a medium largely critical of the government, it can be assumed that the reason for the rejection is the fact that the government is concerned about the issues it could get.
“However, this is not only a violation of the constitutional right to free dissemination of information, but it is also politically unacceptable, because it is discrimination against one part of the citizens and voters.”
The letter called on the government to find a solution that allowed questions and access to different representatives of the news media.
- Click here to read the letter in Czech
This statement by IPI is part of the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and Candidate Countries.