Worried about influence of Russia and other states on the local media scene, the Czech government has announced plans to set up a special team to pay closer attention.26 May 2016
The Czech Ministry of the Interior is planning to hire some 30 specialists to monitor foreign propaganda in the media and on social networks and to design strategies to curb its influence,Radio Prague says, citing a Czech Television report. The plan is evidently the result of a perception that the amount of such propaganda in the Czech online space has increased, both on Kremlin-funded sites such as Sputnik News and on smaller pro-Russian pages that have sprung up over the past few years, often with anonymous owners.
While most of these sites have small audiences, a few larger online publications, such as Parlamentni listy, have been accused of running pro-Russian articles resembling propaganda.
“Setting up this team is the result of the National Security Audit, which has been in place since the end of 2015,” Jan Sir, an academic at the Department of Russian and East European Studies at Charles University’s Institute of International Relations, told Radio Prague. “It focuses on several issues relating to national security, including these so-called non-traditional, hybrid threats, where propaganda is a very strong component.”
- Czech President Milos Zeman has often been tagged as being a Russian-friendly face in high Czech politics. A study by two think tanks last year concluded that Zeman, the Communist Party, and some Social Democrat members were the “most frequent bearers” of Russian propaganda in the Czech Republic, Radio Prague reported, a claim Zeman’s spokesman strongly refuted.
- The Czech Republic has already been implementing measures to combat news sources that promote pro-Kremlin views. The largest Czech nonprofit, People in Need, haslaunched high school courses that teach teenagers how to distinguish trustworthy information from media manipulation.
- One of the most well-known, pro-Russian sites in the Czech Republic is Aeronet.cz, whose anonymous editor has said its mission is to combat the “pro-American view of the feudal status of Europeans.” An investigation into the ownership of the site by the Czech weekly Respekt was fruitless.
- A Czech journalist, Jakub Kalensky, heads the East StratCom Task Force at the European External Action Service (EEAS), which has a mission of countering Russian anti-Western propaganda and produces the Disinformation Review.
- The Prague Security Studies Institute published a report in 2015 on the pro-Russian disinformation campaign in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.