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Czech Radio head dismisses staff’s criticism of his approach

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Prague, Feb 2 (CTK) – Public Czech Radio (CRo) general director Rene Zavoral on Friday dismissed the CRo staff’s resolution criticising his approach to reporter Janek Kroupa’s radio reports on controversial practices of Agrofert, a giant holding formerly owned by current PM Andrej Babis, and calling it intimidation.

Kroupa, in his reports, described Agrofert’s use of plots with an unclear structure of owners.

Babis owned Agrofert, a food, chemical and media holding, until February 2017 when he transferred it to a trust fund in compliance with a new conflict of interest law.

Zavoral said he reacted to Agrofert’s complaint about Kroupa’s reports by dismissing it in a crushing majority of points, but only voiced doubts about the quality of the composition of the reports.

On Wednesday, Zavoral said at a meeting of the CRo Council that Kroupa’s reports were imbalanced and unobjective, and added that an analysis from the Institute of Communication Studies and Journalism (IKSZ) of Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences confirmed this.

The CRo Council recommended that the CRo should strive for objectiveness, which “did not entirely happen in this case.”

According to CTK’s information, a petition criticising Zavoral’s approach and signed by 215 members of the CRo staff was handed over to the CRo management on Friday.

The signatories say Zavoral’s statement can be viewed as intimidation. They ask the CRo Ethical Commission to assess Kroupa’s radio reports.

Kroupa said he was surprised at the number of those signing the petition, who “have protested against the director’s manipulative approach and realised that this probably amounts to intimidation on his part.”

Zavoral should draw a lesson from this and at least come to the conclusion that his approach is wrong, Kroupa told CTK.

Reacting to the criticism on Friday, Zavoral dismissed it, saying that the CRo employees enjoy conditions enabling them to work freely, which also applies to Kroupa’s reports about Agrofert, all of which had been broadcast or otherwise published.

He said his position on the issue was required by the CRo Council, to which Agrofert addressed its complaints about Kroupa’s reports.

“I never denied the seriousness of the issue. Last November, I only reacted to the CRo Council’s direct question by voicing doubts about the quality of the reports’ composition,” he said on Friday.

That is why he had three expert analyses worked out at the time. “Out of them, only one [the IKZS’s] was useable, and, unfortunately, it confirmed my doubts and showed that the reports include a number of disputable points and shortcomings,” Zavoral said.

The other analyses, worked out by the Newton agency and reporter Karel Hvizdala, whom CRo employees themselves chose for this purpose, did not provide the necessary expert framework, Zavoral said.

He said he has defended CRo employees many times so far and would always do so if their work is good and well done. However, by defending mistakes and shortcomings, he would only undermine people’s confidence in the CRo’s objective work, he said.

However, the CRo staff are of the view that though Zavoral had three independent expert analyses, he expediently chose only one of them to cite selected sentences from.

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