Monday, 24 September 2018

Journalists criticise Zeman's spokesman withholding info

ČTK |
11 January 2018

Prague, Jan 10 (CTK) - The Czech Journalists' Syndicate criticised President Milos Zeman's spokesman Jiri Ovcacek for refusing to answer questions on the funding of Zeman's election campaign, and thereby limiting the freedom of information, the syndicate wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

When asked about the funding of Zeman's campaign by the daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) and Aktualne.cz server, media published by the Economia publishing house of businessman Zdenek Bakala, Ovcacek referred them to the law on free access to information.

The syndicate tweeted that it sharply denounced Ovcacek for intending to provide answers to the journalists solely based on this law.

According to the law, state authorities, local administration and public institutions are obliged to provide information falling within their scope of authority, unless reasons exist to withhold the information, within 15 days of the receipt of such request.

According to Economia's board member and editor-in-chief Vladimir Piskacek, Ovcacek's decision is unprecedented in the Czech democratic society.

Piskacek said Ovcacek called the HN daily and Aktualne.cz server "election newsletters" and not media, saying this was why he would not answer their questions.

In a response sent to CTK, Ovcacek said "Bakala's publishing house" was spreading sheer disinformation.

"The Journalists' Syndicate has been silent about this all the time, despite the fact that I have pointed out the problem publicly a few times," he wrote in a SMS.

Ovcacek said Economia was pursuing an election campaign on behalf of another presidential candidate, whom it had publicly supported.

Piskacek said their journalists would not let themselves be stopped and any such "naive and meaningless steps" on the part of the Presidential Office motivate them to further work.

Journalists were lately criticised at the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) movement's conference by SPD head Tomio Okamura and President Milos Zeman, who was a guest speaker. Some media were not allowed access to the SPD conference, including journalists from Aktualne.cz, Seznam Zpravy and Czech TV show "168 hours".

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