Several journalists organizations, including the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders (RSF), have written to Petr Kellner calling on him to publicly commit to uphold media freedom and respect editorial independence, regardless of political or financial pressures.
Kellner’s PPF group has become the new owner of Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which includes the Czech television Nova, and the Slovak Markíza.
The organizations for the protection of journalists and press freedom say that PPF’s acquisition of CME, which has recently taken over 30 television stations broadcasting to approximately 45 million viewers, will have a far-reaching impact on Central and Eastern Europe’s media environment. The acquisition comes as media freedom and independent journalism in the region are under significant pressure.
“Therefore, in taking over CME at this time, PPF Group will shoulder a significant responsibility in light of the media’s role, in any democratic society, of providing citizens with independent information on matters of public interest. It is essential that it lives up to it,” the groups wrote.
Journalists also consider it crucial that PPF adheres to editorial independence principles, given that the televisions they now own play an essential role in public debate in individual countries. Journalists’ organizations urge PPF to avoid promoting any business or political interests. “Journalists must be able to follow the story wherever it leads,” the letter said. In the context of PPF’s business in China, the letter said, “we ask you to ensure that the outlets you own are editorially free to publish critically about Chinese policy or investment in their countries without pressure to soften stances or avoid certain issues, no matter the repercussions for other investments or relations.”
The journalists say they are turning to Kellner because PPF Group’s public sector director Vladimír Mlynář previously refused to dispel fears that PPF might promote its economic or political interests through Nova and the CME group. In an interview on ČT24, Mlynar said that “everyone who buys a property, including the media, and pays a lot of money for it, has the right to make use of it.” He said PPF would produce “decent, balanced commercial television.”