Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Zeman, interior minister disagree on body against disinformation

ČTK |
11 January 2017

Prague, Jan 10 (CTK) - Czech President Milos Zeman and Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (Social Democrats, CSSD) promoted different stances on a new department which has been fighting disinformation since the beginning of the year at their meeting on Tuesday.

Zeman is convinced that employees of the Interior Ministry's new department are not able to expose real disinformation and he considers some of them ideologically biased.

Chovanec insists on that no censorship is involved.

He said he will continue discussing the issue with the Presidential Office and that Zeman is to put an employee in charge of contact with the Interior Ministry.

The meeting lasted more than two hours. Chovanec said both parties have kept their opinions after the talks.

Zeman exceptionally commented in greater detail on the content of the meeting through his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek.

Chovanec disagrees with Zeman's opinion that the new department would keep a monopoly on the truth.

He said the state should formulate its stance on information that is of fundamental importance for security, for instance.

"The citizens will make their choice," Chovanec said, adding that there should be maximally dozens of cases annually.

However, Zeman is convinced that the 15 clerks of the department lack the qualification and sources of the intelligence services that are necessary to expose real disinformation campaigns.

Chovanec disagrees with this. "They have been there (at the ministry) for many years. They can ask the secret services if they do not know something," he said.

Zeman said the personnel composition of the new department rather testifies to the ideological bias of some of the employees.

He said this is reflected in their documented negative relationship to U.S. president-elect Donald Trump.

Zeman was Trump's supporter still before the presidential election.

Zeman gave Chovanec about 40 pages of relevant written material that Chovanec said he will study and that he is ready for further discussion.

"It is necessary to talk about it, and not to exchange messages via the media," he said.

The new department is part of the Anti-terrorism Centre, which was formed in reaction to terrorist attacks in Europe.

It should pass its findings to the police, the military and the secret services.

One of the parts of the department specialises in uncovering disinformation from open sources, including social networks, and their refuting.

People should be supplied with true information within a matter of minutes or hours. Gradually, similar groups should be formed at other ministries as well. The Government Office will be responsible for their coordination.

The Interior Ministry said previously the centre will not have the "button to switch off the Internet," it will not enforce the truth on people or practice censorship.

It will not remove any content from the Internet or the printed media. The centre is not to be any security corps, a body participating in the criminal proceedings or an intelligence service.

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