European Parliament discusses state of Czech media. Czech journalism faces no institutional obstacles,Telička says

On June 1, the European Parliament debated the situation of the Czech media  and their potential political abuse. Vice President of the EP Pavel Telička also took part in the discussion. 

“I would first like to say that I am not quite sure why we are discussing the situation in the Czech media environment. I believe the European Parliament should be addressing systemic issues in those EU countries that fail to respect fundamental democratic principles and where independent journalism faces institutional obstacles. The Czech Republic is certainly not one of them.

It goes without saying that the action of Andrej Babiš – who is the leader of the party I represent – was unacceptable. I have indeed myself raised the issue with him, publicly denounced his actions, and I publicly asked him to provide full account of what exactly happened and what his role in the matter was. I also called on him to facilitate the resolution of the situation by resigning.

But the Czech Republic has functioning democratic institutions whose capability of dealing with such problems remain unrestrained. We have conflict-of-interest legislation in place which has prompted Andrej Babiš to place his media and other companies in a trust fund. These institutions are well placed to assess if that is sufficient.

But all that is one individual case. It might be interesting to note that the latest Press Freedom Index, put out by the respectable organization Reporters Without Borders, ranks the Czech republic 23rd out of 180 countries in the world, well above France which ranks 39th, the UK which is 40th, or Italy, which ranks 52nd.

Czech media and Czech journalists are free to do their job properly. I would say that I see a much bigger reason for concern – and that is in my country's ambiguous and rather passive European policies.

I don't think that is something we should be discussing here either. But I would understand that many of you would like to understand an increasing ambiguity in EU issues in the Czech Republic and other EU countries, their passivity and an ever-stronger tendency to see the European integration project in purely financial terms. But again, that is an issue common in many countries, not just the Czech Republic.

It seems that some Czech politicians, including president Miloš Zeman, have forgotten what brought us into EU ranks in the first place. I hope that Czech people will choose truly European leaders in the general election this fall and especially the presidential election next Janurary. That would surely bring a welcome break for many, including myself.

The Czechs as well as other EU nations need real leaders to actively shape the debate on a number of issues, from Brexit and the future of the European integration to pressing security and other challenges on which we are often slow and weak. We need decisions and their enforcement. I want a Czech debate on these issues but also Euro.

Instead of discussing the failure of one Czech politician on one issue, however important it might be, we should focus on working towards a reform of the EU. I think for instance that it makes very little sense to keep talking about the five scenarios for EU's future, especially since three of them are no scenarios at all.

Time, rather than EU institutions, will tell whether Europe will develop into a multi-speed bloc or whether it will further integrate. That will be naturally decided by our own ability to come to agreements on specific problems and challenges. So let's first make clear what these problems are, and let's start dealing with them.

Czech journalism as well as swift investigation of the recordings of the now former first Deputy Prime Minister Babiš is not one of them.”

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