The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalists' group, today gave its full support to the strike by journalists and media workers at Czech Television in Prague.
"This is a moment of truth for press freedom and democracy," said Aidan White, General Secretary of the IFJ, "the struggle of Czech journalists and media staff is about putting an end to censorship and political manipulation of media. They have the support of journalists throughout Europe and all around the world."
The IFJ and its regional group, the European Federation of Journalists, are calling on the European Union and the Council of Europe to press the Czech authorities to repudiate the actions by Jiri Hodac, the newly-appointed General Director of Czech Public Television, who has tried to purge the editorial department and dismiss key leaders of the management
The IFJ and EFJ are supporting the strikers' demands that Hodac be removed and that the television council is reformed and that action is taken to lift the current security blockade of the television where journalists and staff are sitting in.
Nine of the 13 management members rebelled over the new Hodac regime and asked him to resign. He responded by dismissing four of them.
The journalists' anger over political interference reached breaking point with the appointment of Jana Bobosikova, the former close adviser to Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Parliament and Leader of the ODS, the Democratic Citizens Party, to head the political department at the station. She immediately fired 20 editorial staff, which led to the newsroom revolt.
The ODS, which exerts considerable influence on the minority Social Democrat government, is thought to have paved the way for the Hodac coup by securing the dismissal of the former Director General Dusan Chmelicek.
"This confrontation has been caused by a mixture of shoddy political dealing and complete disregard for the principles of editorial independence and respect for public service broadcasting," said Gustl Glattfelder, Chairman of the European Federation of Journalists."
The IFJ and EFJ plan in the next few days to send an urgent mission to Prague to express their solidarity and support for the strikers. "The strikers have asked for our support and they will get it," says Gustl Glattfelder, "We are appealing to our colleagues throughout Europe to give their full support."
The IFJ says that in many countries of central and eastern Europe the authorities still fail to recognise that media should be free of all political influence. "This is true for all forms of journalism, but must be absolutely the case in the public sector," says the IFJ.
Messages of support may be sent to the following:
Czech TV Staff: Jan.Molacek@Czech-tv.cz
Czech Journalists' Syndicate: firstname.lastname@example.org