Welcome to Talkback, a forum to voice your opinion on today’s Czech news.
This week’s topic:Should media be allowed to publish police wiretaps?
Last week, lower house deputies passed the draft penal code including the controversial ban on the disclosure of police-wiretapped phone conversations. Publishing transcripts or broadcasting recordings of phone calls intercepted by the police without the consent of the person concerned would be banned under the bill. Newspapers, broadcasters and internet sites would face up to five years in prison or a fine of CZK 5 million for violating the wiretapping discloser ban.
The draft amendment has been criticised by a number of Czech and international media organisations, such as the European Newspaper Publishers’ Association (ENPA), Reporters Without Frontiers and the Czech Syndicate of Journalists.
They argue the bill would seriously undermine the right to information and pose a serious obstacle to effective investigative journalism. The ENPA used the Czech draft penal code as a warning example when calling on EU countries recently to refrain from measures that are at odds with fundamental rights, freedom of speech and access to information.
The initiator of the bill, ODS deputy Marek Benda, says the aim of the legislation is to prevent recordings from being leaked to the media before the case in question had been closed.
The controversial ban is another assault aimed at Czech media in the past couple months. Last year, Interior Minister Ivan Langer filed a lawsuit against the Mafra publishing house over the articles that appeared in Mladá fronta Dnes suggesting his connection with the late controversial businessman František Mrázek. Also late last year, author Milan Kundera accused the news media of committing “the assassination of an author” when the weekly Respekt published a report by the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes accusing Kundera of informing on a Western agent to the communist police. Last week, Central Bohemia governor David Rath asked the weekly Reflex to apologise for the published material depicting him as Nazi leader Adolf Hitler.
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