- Hans Weber
- December 1, 2023
Czech opposition threatens to sue government if public media changes pass
The proposed changes to the selection of councillors of Czech Television and Czech Radio have sparked controversy, with the opposition party ANO threatening the government with a lawsuit. The opposition parties accuse the government of trying to control public media outlets. The proposed amendment also breaches the EU audiovisual and media services directive, according to Czech MP Jaroslava Pokorná Jermanová of ANO.
The proposal restricts the type of organisations that can submit proposals for candidates to public broadcasters’ boards. The amendment requires organisations to be ten years old to be able to nominate a candidate. ANO has threatened to file a complaint with the European Commission if the amendment is approved in this form.
The proposed amendment also involves both chambers of the Czech Parliament in selecting councillors, whereas currently, only the lower chamber elects them. However, Pokorná Jermanová claims that such a change is unconstitutional.
The government argues that the amendment will strengthen the independence and stability of public media, making it less dependent on the current composition of the lower chamber of the Czech parliament.
However, ANO MPs have warned against the government’s attempts to introduce practices that they criticize when they happen in other countries, such as Hungary. Alena Schillerová, an MP from the ANO party, has urged the government not to follow the path of authoritarian states.
The debate on public media broadcasters’ boards lasted over four hours without outcome. The government will have another try to push the amendment through parliament on Friday. Although a majority in the Czech parliament supports the bill’s proposal, the opposition often blocks voting with long speeches and breaks, making it impossible to vote on specific files.
The independence of public media is crucial in any democracy, and efforts to control them should be vehemently opposed. Public broadcasters play a critical role in informing the public, and they must be free from political interference.
The proposed changes to the selection of councillors of Czech Television and Czech Radio are particularly concerning because they appear to limit the number of organisations that can nominate candidates. This restriction could prevent qualified individuals from being appointed to these important positions.
Moreover, involving both chambers of the Czech Parliament in selecting councillors could lead to more political interference in public media. While the government’s intention to make public media less dependent on the lower chamber of the Czech parliament may seem like a positive step, it could ultimately lead to more political interference from the upper chamber.
In conclusion, the proposed changes to the selection of councillors of Czech Television and Czech Radio have raised concerns among opposition parties and some members of the public. The government must consider the potential consequences of these changes and ensure that public media remain independent and free from political interference.
Article by Prague Forum