Platforma pro nezávislost a pluralitu sdělovacích prostředků
Platform for media independence and its pluralism
There is no democracy without free media
The Initiative Svobodu médiím! (Freedom for Media!) represents a Platform for media independence and its pluralism in the Czech Republic. The Platform consists of numerous professional and civic organizations and public personalities who joined forces to push for the changes described in the Statement below. Its members and supporters believe it is important to protect freedom of speech and media, without which a democratic society cannot function.
In democracy, free and independent media play an indispensable role as check to power. Consequently, the mass media separation from the power should be clear and distinct. Today the growing concentration of media ownership and the merging economic, political and media powers are undermining this role. Concurrently, we are witnessing an effort of political and economic groups to weaken or destroy the independence of public broadcasting, Czech Television and Czech Radio.
The Platform for Media Independence and Pluralism has emerged as an expression of citizens’ self-defense. The Platform’s goal is to change media legislation in order to strengthen the freedom of media, which is essential for a functioning democracy:
Public broadcasting has to be independent from political parties and the government. Czech Television and Czech Radio Laws have to ensure that the Boards of these institutions, which are the means of citizens’ control, would not consist anymore of political appointees by the Parliament. The Boards must include respected public personalities endowed with authority that enables them to control whether public media fulfill their mission and are insulated from political influence and commercial pressures.
In principle, commercial media serve advertisers by treating viewers and listeners as consumers of advertised products, while public media address viewers and listeners as citizens. The effort by some politicians to do away with the television and radio licence fees paid by citizens thus threatens the protection of the service of public media and their autonomy, to which citizens are entitled by the law. These attempts by politicians are thus directed against citizens. They endanger not only news, but also Czech fiction and non-fiction filmmaking, animation and children’s films, and more than ninety years of broadcasting tradition, i.e. major components of cultural identity and memory of the nation. As a result, minorities, disabled people, sport fans, as well as lovers of high and popular culture would suffer. For low income citizens public broadcasting is often the only affordable cultural service, providing the general public with information and education to make sense of a complex and changing world.
It is critical to limit the concentration of media ownership and to prevent the linkage of the media power and the political power. Media pluralism and independence are the prerequisite of two fundamental human rights – freedom of expression and freedom of information. According to the article 11 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union: “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. The freedom and pluralism of the media shall be respected.” Only free media separated from the political power can fulfil their watchdog role over the government.
The Platform seeks to change media laws in cooperation with civil society, including professionals and academia. We are asking legislators to join this effort. We see steps taken in the opposite direction as a dangerous attempt to capture public space that might turn our democracy into an autocratic regime.
Alena Dernerová, Senator; Fero Fenič, Director and Screenwriter; Libor Grubhoffer, President of University of South Bohemia; Jiří Grygar, Astrophysicist and former President of Czech Television Council; Tomáš Halík, President of The Christian Academy; Jan Hančil, President of AMU; František Janouch, Founder and Chairman of The Charter 77 Foundation; Petr Kolář, Consultant and former Ambassador; Václav Láska , Senator; Jaroslav Miller, President of Palacky University in Olomouc; Zdeněk Papoušek, Senator; Jiři Pospíšil, MEP; Karel Schwarzenberg, MP; Jiří Šesták, Senator ; Ljuba Václavová, Documentary film maker; Leoš Válka, Director of DOX Arts Center; Miloslav Vlk, Catholic Cardinal and former Archbishop of Prague, and others.