Thousands rally against Czech president's attack on media

Thousands rally against Czech president's attack on media
From Al Jazeera - March 15, 2018

Prague, Czech Republic - Thousands of Czechs have taken to the streets of the capital, Prague, in defiance of a recent attack on local independent media by the country's recently re-elected President Milos Zeman.

Speaking during his inauguration last week at Prague Castle, the pro-Russian, anti-migrant Zeman criticised the Czech media by name, accusing them of favouritism during the recent elections and general bias.

The comments prompted several opposition members of parliament in attendance to leave the ceremony.

Zeman's remarks came less than two weeks after 27-year-old Slovakian investigative reporter Jan Kuciak and his fiance Martina Kusnirova were shot dead in their home outside the Slovakian capital, Bratislava, in an assassination suspected to be connected to his work.

The Czech Republic and Slovakia, formerly unified as Czechoslovakia, split 25 years ago, but the two nations remain close.

Gathering in Prague's Wenceslas Square on Wednesday evening - the location of massive protests against communism during the 1989 Velvet Revolution - flag-waving Czechs criticised Zeman and Prime Minister Andrej Babis, chanting "shame" and jingling their keys, a gesture used during communism that symbolises the unlocking of doors as they swept Communists from power.

"I do not agree what our president is saying about the media," said Klara Krivankova, a 23-year-old biology student.

"I think it can make a dangerous atmosphere in our republic, which can be dangerous for the media as well."

Specifically, Zeman attacked the independent Czech Television, a public news provider whose director is appointed by a council elected by parliament.

They condemned Zeman's speech as unacceptable and an attack on its independence.

Media control


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