The IPI global network congratulates Veronika Sedláčková on her election as the new chair of the IPI Czech National Committee. IPI also expresses gratitude to the committee’s former chair, Michal Klíma, who stepped down this Friday after successfully leading the committee for three years. IPI is looking forward to continuing the excellent cooperation with Sedláčková as chair.

On January 21, the IPI Czech National Committee accepted Michal Klíma’s resignation from his position as the chair of the committee’s board and unanimously elected Veronika Sedláčková as the new chair.

“We would like to thank Michal for his exceptional work in establishing the IPI Czech National Committee and leading it over the past three years”, IPI Executive Director Barbara Trionfi said. “A leading media expert, Michal has been a powerful voice in defence of press freedom and independent journalism at a time of growing illiberalism in Central Europe. His efforts are an inspiration to other IPI members and National Committees around the world.”

Klíma was a founding member of IPI’s Czech National Committee in 2019 and served as its first chair. He has been a member of IPI since 1992.

Klíma announced his resignation on January 14 after he accepted Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s offer to become his adviser on media and misinformation. “I welcome the efforts to improve the situation in these areas and I will try to contribute to that”, Klíma wrote in a statement to the media.

Warm welcome

IPI welcomes Sedláčková as the new chair of the IPI Czech National Committee. “Veronika Sedláčková has been an integral part of the IPI Czech National Committee since the beginning, and we are confident that, under her leadership, the Committee will remain at the forefront of efforts to preserve and improve media freedom in the Czech Republic”, Trionfi said. “We look forward to working closely with her and all members of the IPI Czech Committee toward these ends.”

As chair, Sedláčková hopes to continue to protect the freedom and the independence of the press in the Czech Republic, she told IPI today. “When journalists in the Czech Republic, our colleagues, are under the pressure of politics, we will continue to make statements and bring attention to their situation. Showing our support and raising awareness is important to us.”

The election of Sedláčková, who has been a journalist for more than twenty years, and now works as an editor for a private news website called Seznam Zprávy, comes at a crucial moment for press freedom in the Czech Republic. The country’s recent parliamentary elections, which took place in October 2021, provide a window of opportunity to improve media freedom, she said. “Press freedom in the Czech Republic is at risk, but we really hope that the media environment will improve under the new government. The fact that Michal Klíma has become adviser to Prime Minister Fiala is a good step for media freedom. We’re watching it closely.”

Challenges for journalism

As chair of the committee, Sedláčková identified three main problems for journalism in the Czech Republic. “Firstly, small, independent media lack money and are financially unstable. This is a threat to their independence. Secondly, public TV and radio stations are under severe political pressure as an important committee of the public media is elected by the parliament, which undermines the independence of public media. We hope an upcoming law will change this.”

Thirdly, Sedláčková identifies the rising level of misinformation as a threat to the media in the country. “As journalists, we have to fight misinformation from so-called ‘news’ websites. Especially in the pandemic the public is vulnerable for this kind of misinformation. Some politicians spread this misinformation, which is very dangerous from their position because society believes them.”

Michal Klíma, who now takes up Czech Prime Minister Petr Fiala’s offer to become his adviser on media and misinformation

  • For more information about the challenges facing independent media in the Czech Republic after the recent election, read this recent article published by IPI and written by Johana Hovorková, editor-in-chief of FORUM 24, which is part of a content series on threats to independent media in Central Europe: “Despite election loss, Babiš’s influence over media still matters”