Monday, 18 June 2018

PM: Hybrid threats may have fatal impact on democracy

19 May 2017

Prague, May 18 (CTK) - Hybrid threats may have fatal impact on democracy unless enough attention is paid to them, and the Czech Republic is ready to fight these threats, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told the Stratcom Summit on disinformation that the European Values think tank organises on Thursday.

It is of primary importance to be able to distinguish true facts from false or deliberately distorted news, he said. However, it is extremely difficult to discover the origin and accuracy of the information, he added.

Sobotka said hybrid threats are a complex issue. "They have a potential of not only threatening our security, but they may also have fatal impact on democratic principles and institutions that are the basis of our political system and the guarantee of our personal freedom," he said.

Sobotka pointed out that a centre fighting hybrid threats, terrorism and propaganda started operating at the Czech Interior Ministry this year. One part of this centre focuses on the revealing of disinformation from open sources, including social networking sites, and their refutation.

"This has been the first step towards the developing of a network of other partner centres," Sobotka said.

The Czech National Security Council also has an expert team for hybrid threats.

Sobotka also talked about the role of the media. He said private media must also respect the main principles of independent reporting.

Earlier this month, recordings released on Twitter indicated that Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) used the media he owned against his political rivals. The billionaire Babis owns two wide-circulation national daily papers, a popular radio station and other media through his giant Agrofert holding, which he was recently forced to transfer to trust funds because of the newly amended law on conflict of interest.

Along with Babis's suspected tax evasion, this is the main reason why Sobotka said Babis must leave the government. On May 17, Sobotka and Babis agreed that ANO MP Ivan Pilny is to be finance minister instead of him.

Sobotka opened his speech at Stratcom Summit with a quote from late Czech democratic journalist Ferdinand Peroutka. President Milos Zeman claimed two years ago that Peroutka showed pro-Nazi leanings. Zeman insisted on this statement, although Czech historians disproved it. Peroutka's granddaughter took the matter to court.

Sobotka said Peroutka was an active guardian of democracy.

In the present government crisis, protests in Czech streets sided with Sobotka and opposed Zeman and Babis whom they considered threats to Czech democracy.

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