- Hans Weber
- December 4, 2023
President Petr Pavel Enacts Stricter Law Curbing Media Ownership by Top Politicians
President Petr Pavel has taken a significant step toward curbing potential conflicts of interest within the Czech political landscape by signing a new law that tightens restrictions on top politicians owning media companies and accepting subsidies and incentives. This transformative legislation, an amendment to the law on political parties, aims to enhance transparency and accountability in governance, particularly in relation to media ownership and financial benefits.
The central provision of this amendment is a ban on media ownership by top politicians. Notably, the ban targets actual owners rather than controlling individuals to prevent any potential circumvention. By implementing this measure, the law seeks to prevent influential political figures from exerting undue influence over media outlets, thus safeguarding the independence and impartiality of the press.
Additionally, the law also takes aim at government officials, prohibiting them from accepting subsidies and investment incentives. This aspect of the legislation responds to concerns raised by instances of potential conflicts of interest, such as those involving ANO party leader Andrej Babiš. Babiš, in response to earlier restrictions on media ownership and subsidies, had transferred shares of his companies, including Agrofert, into trust funds. The Agrofert group notably encompasses Mafra, a prominent media conglomerate in the Czech Republic.
The new law has been met with controversy and opposition, particularly from the ANO party, which has raised objections and obstructed the legislative process. Nevertheless, the Chamber of Deputies managed to approve the law in June, with its provisions set to come into effect next year.
President Pavel’s involvement in this legislative process underscores the commitment to ensuring compliance with the law. While enacting the legislation, President Pavel also called attention to the need for clarity and precision in the implementation process, echoing the sentiments of the Supreme Administrative Court’s jurisprudence.
This comprehensive legal reform signals a firm step towards addressing potential conflicts of interest within the realms of media ownership and public financial incentives. By introducing stricter regulations, the Czech Republic aims to fortify democratic principles and protect the integrity of media organizations while promoting transparent and ethical political practices.
Article by Prague Forum