Freedom of the Press - Czech Republic (2002)

Status: Free
Legal Environment: 10
Political Influences: 6
Economic Pressures: 9
Total Score: 25

Population: n/a
GNI/capita: n/a
Life Expectancy: 75
Religious Groups: n/a
Ethnic Groups: Czech (94 percent), Slovak (3 percent), other, including Polish (3 percent)
Capital: Prague

An ongoing conflict between political leaders of this democratic state, who charge they have been libeled in the independent press, has generated harsh pressures that threaten the credibility of the press and could limit its freedom. In 2001, the prime minister threatened to sue and shut down Respekt, a weekly newspaper. Other journalists who have offended Czech politicians came under pressure from the courts and regulatory bodies. Libel is a criminal offence in the Czech Republic and journalists can be sentenced to prison terms if convicted. For more than a year, political interference has included firing of news and program chiefs of the public television service and efforts in the politically appointed broadcasting commission to ban programs hostile to the ruling party and its coalition partner. The public service Czech Radio was reported to have persuaded Radio Free Europe to drop a popular political commentator who was also attacked by a parliamentary chairman. A group of cabinet members threatened to sue Respekt for carrying the European Union's charge that the Czech Republic was failing to combat corruption. There are three national television stations (one public and two private) and approximately 60 private radio stations, in addition to the public broadcaster Czech Radio.

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