Czech president Miloš Zeman has drawn criticism for comments he made about journalists, in which he appeared to make reference to the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Istanbul.
“I love journalists, that’s why I may organise a special banquet for them this evening at the Saudi embassy,” Zeman said, apparently alluding to Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned the remark, made on the eve of the Czechoslovak centenary celebrations, on its website.
The organisation said the joke was made “in the worst possible taste at the expense of journalists” as well as calling on Zeman to apologise.
The president has a history of rubbing reporters up the wrong way — he greeted journalists with a dummy Kalashnikov at a press conference in October 2017 and in May 2017, he said journalists should be “liquidated” because “there are too many of them.”
“We condemn the Czech president’s latest appalling provocation towards journalists,” said Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk. “It is sickening to see him take his cynicism to this level. He must apologise to the journalistic community and stop these nauseating jibes.”
The joke “has fueled concerns about new attacks against journalists,” she added.
RSF wrote on its website that the Czech Republic was a source of growing concern about the threats to media freedom, a concern that it said was reinforced by yesterday’s comment.