CJFE condemns draft press law in Czech Republic

Thursday, June 24, 1999

CJFE condemns draft press law in Czech Republic

24 June 1999

His Excellency Milos Zeman
Prime Minister
Urad vlady Ceske Republiky
nabrezi Edvarda Benese 4
118 01 Praha 1 – Mala Strana
Czech Republic
Fax: +4202 231 2358

Your Excellencies:

On behalf of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE), a non-governmental organization that promotes freedom of expression worldwide, I would like to impress upon you our strong disapproval of the draft press law submitted to the Czech Parliament by the government.

The draft law would, among other things, apply restrictions on the free circulation of the press, require publications to register their political "tendency", and ban free discussion of a wide range of vaguely defined topics. It would also dictate the form, size and timing of replies–negating a publication's control over its own space and its freedom of editorial judgement on the seriousness, importance, relevance or appropriateness of a reply.

Since the end of communism, the Czech Republic has demonstrated exemplary respect for press freedom. This draft, however, comes as a blatant contradiction to this ideal. If adopted, such a law would stifle freedom of expression in the Czech Republic and would severely damage the positive global image of the country as one dedicated to upholding democratic principles. Adopting this law would also blatantly violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which embodies the freedom "to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers."

Attempts by government to curb open reporting of the news and debate of issues would be a significant throwback to the totalitarian past that the Czech people struggled for so long to eradicate. As such, CJFE would like to see that the democratic ideals deeply rooted in the Czech people are advanced by their government. This ill-considered bill should be withdrawn.

Sincerely,

Wayne Sharpe
Executive Director

cc. His Excellency Vaclav Havel
President
Prazsky brad
119 08 Praha 1,
Czech Republic
Fax: +4202 2431 0853

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