Zeman Defends Russian Disinformation CampaignsMatt Atlas
Chinese and Russian intelligence activities pose a significant threat to the security of the Czech Republic. By using a wide range of methods, intelligence services from both countries tried to weaken Czech state institutions, influence official state positions related to international security and threaten the democratic system, the Czech intelligence service (BIS) warned in its annual report for 2018 published on Tuesday (26 November).
The report was published only a few days after EURACTIV.cz media partner Aktuálně.cz revealed that China had funded a “propaganda” course at the Charles University in Prague and paid a trip to China for some of its best students. In response to the scandal, the leading Czech university decided to close its Czech-Chinese centre.
“The complexity of Chinese activities is comparable to the Russian ones,” the BIS wrote in its report, emphasising that the increase in the Chinese activities in the country is considered to be a fundamental security problem. “These activities include searching for and contacting potential co-operators and agents among Czech citizens,” BIS warned. For example, Chinese intelligence uses LinkedIn to search and contact potential co-operators.
When it comes to Russia, BIS noted that its key goal was to manipulate decision-making processes to force the opposition to weaken itself. According to BIS, Russian intelligence officers are trying to influence politicians, who can have an impact on the development of issues that are of interest to Russia.
Pro-Russian activists operating in the Czech Republic had also threatened the country’s constitution by spreading misinformation. “In recent years, pro-Russian activists opposed the political order of the Czech Republic and its membership in the EU and NATO more intensively, more conceptually and more systematically,” according to the report.
The report triggered a wave of reactions from Czech politicians, who mostly praised BIS for its excellent work. Finance Minister Alena Schillerová (ANO, RE) said the government carefully analyses all the confidential documents obtained. Newly elected leader of the pro-European TOP 09 (EPP) Markéta Pekarová Adamová noted that the government is obviously not active enough. She also stated that “the head of pro-Russian activists is in the (Prague) Castle” pointing clearly at the president’s office.
Czech president Miloš Zeman is well-known for his pro-Russian attitude. In response to the BIS report, Zeman’s spokesperson said that it is unacceptable that the BIS considers people with a different opinion to be spreading disinformation and blamed the country’s intelligence service for attempting to restrict freedom of expression.
(Aneta Zachová | EURACTIV.cz)