In an open letter, the International Press Institute (IPI) called on Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Health Minister Jan Blatný to improve communication on the coronavirus pandemic and open access to government press conferences representatives of all media. In October, the Czech IPI Committee criticized the government for denying access to press conferences critical of the cabinet; specifically, he named the online daily Forum 24. According to the institute, the Czech government has not yet remedied it. CTK is trying to get a statement from the government office.
IPI sent an open letter and another organization for the protection of media freedom Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR). According to them, it is worrying that the Czech government continues to exclude representatives of some media from press conferences, even though these conferences are now being held online due to the pandemic. There is clearly no reason to limit the number of journalists.
“We have learned from other media that many questions sent to the press department of the Ministry of Health and government spokeswoman Jana Adamcová remain unanswered. This seriously undermines the ability of journalists to fulfill their professional duties at a time when impartial and factual information is key to public health.” in the letter.
The IPI also criticized the fact that even representatives of the media that can attend press conferences often do not have time for their questions. “Although ministers may want to avoid critical inquiries, crowding out some media makes it impossible for journalists to carry out their duties and inquires directly with governments about how they are dealing with the covid-19 pandemic and other issues,” the institute said. According to the IPI, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Health have not changed their communication approach with the media much, despite publicly declared promises.
In the letter, IPI also mentioned that the Czech government last month approved 50 million crowns to the Ministry of Health for a comprehensive communication campaign to explain measures against the spread of coronavirus. According to the institute, the cabinet should ensure that the distribution of money is transparent and that all relevant media have the opportunity to obtain money. Some of the media outlets are owned by Andrej Babis’ Agrofert holding.