The International Press Institute (IPI), the global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists, today joined its Czech National Committee in condemning the decision announced by the head of the Office of the President of the Czech Republic, Vratislav Mynář, not to provide information to several media outlets.
Among those to be excluded from information and statements by Mynář are the weekly Respekt, the Seznam Zprávy server, Deník N, Czech Television (CT) staff working for 168 hours and other reporters from the public television.
Mynář justified the decision by unfairly accusing the media outlets of spreading lies and disseminating information that is “distorted, false and biased”, saying the office would no longer respond to answers email or telephone questions from these outlets.
IPI believes this decision to purposefully withhold information on a discriminatory basis violates the constitution of the Czech Republic, which stipulates that “state power serves all citizens”, as well as the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees the “right to information”.
No law allows officials to proceed in such a way as to deprive some citizens, readers and viewers of these rights. Such barriers on access to information will hinder the work of the media and seriously undermine press freedom. The decision by the president’s office should be reversed immediately and existing discrimination when responding to critical media questions should be addressed.
At the same time, the same unacceptable procedure is applied by the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic, which does not allow journalists from the online outlet Forum 24 to participate in the online government press conferences. IPI has on multiple occasions called on the government to reverse this side-lining of critical media, but the situation has not changed.
The procedure of the Racing Association, which refused to accredit a photographer of the Czech Press Agency for this year’s Velká Pardubická, is also unacceptable.
IPI and its Czech National Committee reject discrimination against the media and journalists, which prevents them from practicing their profession. Particularly unacceptable is such a procedure on the part of state authorities and other organizations whose activities are fully or partially paid for from state funds, i.e. from taxpayers’ money.
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.