IFJ Welcomes End of Czech TV Blackout: Victory for Strikers and Broadcasting Reform

The International Federation of Journalists today welcomed the decision by management of Czech Television to lift the blackout of broadcasts by protesting journalists as a "major victory" for striking staff who are demanding wholesale and democratic reform of the country's public broadcasting system.

Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary who returned from Prague yesterday after meeting the strikers, the Prime Minister, and political leaders said: "The critical turning point has been reached. People are now apparently ready to stop playing political games with public television. This is the moment for cool heads to get together to put in place a serious programme of reform."

The IFJ, which says that the occupation of Czech Television by almost 2,000 journalists and media workers is a moment of truth for Czech democracy, believes the hard lessons learned in Prague will send signals to all countries of the region that public broadcasting must be kept at arm's length from party politics.

During his visit, White had met with news executives opposed to the protest by journalists and asked them to lift the blackout.

"The debate about the future of public broadcasting is now out in the open. The challenge facing all countries of the region is to break completely with the past and to make sure that they have independent, transparent and professional systems of public broadcasting that meet the highest standards of editorial independence," said Gustl Glattfelder, Chair of the European Federation of Journalists, the regional organisation of the IFJ

The IFJ told journalists in Prague that it fully supports the strikers. "It is a sign of the strength of Czech democracy that the confrontation at Czech Television has been peaceful and has opened up a challenging debate for the whole region," said Aidan White. He says all sides in the dispute have endorsed the need for urgent reform. The lifting of the technical jamming of journalists' work by the management was a positive sign and recognition that obstacles to urgent reform should be withdrawn.

The Czech Parliament will discuss a new law for administration of public broadcasting tomorrow. "Within ten days this crisis should be resolved with the integrity and independence of the administration secure, but then will begin the harder task of creating a culture of ethical and independent journalism that can withstand the pressure of political and commercial influence that dominates the Czech media," said Gustl Glattfelder.