Sunday, 17 December 2017

Reflex: Czech media, pollsters, NGOs keep silent before election

ČTK |
6 October 2017

Prague, Oct 5 (CTK) - Not much is happening less than three weeks before the Czech general election, as all links of the pre-election chain, including media and polling agencies, surprisingly choose to remain silent, Bohumil Pecinka writes in Reflex weekly out on Thursday.

Polling agencies have withdrawn to the background contrary to the previous years, probably due to the unsuccessful election results estimates in 2010 and 2013 that ruined their image. As a result, nobody actually knows much about the current motions in society and parties' election campaigns feel like shots on moving targets in a fog, Pecinka says.

The Czech media have ceased to bring up political agenda due to several reasons, which is another suppressed element of this election campaign, he writes.

One of the reasons is the open activism of the media in the past, which made them lose part of their credibility. Many readers have also switched to digital media, which, however, are nowadays openly or covertly manipulated for marketing purposes, he writes.

Secondly, the media imbalance caused by the chief influence of the former finance minister Andrej Babis, his Agrofert holding and ANO movement on the media is peculiar to the Czech Republic. Not only is Babis the owner of the best-read serious daily newspaper (Mlada fronta Dnes, MfD), of the traditional newspaper (Lidove noviny, LN) and of the most popular radio (Impuls). Owing to his political influence, Babis has made "non-attack treaties" with a number of televisions, including the public Czech Television (CT).

This "political-media-economic-security complex" is a source of imbalance. It is logical to ask if part of Babis's empire should be put under state control, Pecinka says.

Pecinka also notes that MfD used to be an "institution" that cultivated Czech investigative journalism and brought up political themes, forming the Czech political agenda ever since the Velvet Revolution in 1989. Four years after Babis's invasion of the media, this "number one" daily has been lost, never mind whether destroyed intentionally or due to journalists having left it, Pecinka notes.

As opposed to the previous years, the activity of NGOs is also less apparent. In the past, they assisted in tabling anti-corruption themes, which were eventually abused by populists before elections, Pecinka says.

The Czech intellectual elites also remain silent, although the forthcoming October 20-21 election matters much more than any other in the past. Perhaps this silence reflects a certain tiredness of struggles, as well as an awaiting of a new generation.

Finally, political parties seem to have adopted the tactic of "keeping silent through to the election" to avoid being attacked by the others. However, there is no longer any stable core of voters which could secure a political success of any party. More than ever before in the contemporary history, there are hesitant voters who will decide a few days before the election. Hence, taking a political risk would pay more than ever, Pecinka concludes.

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