Thursday 12 February 2009

OSCE representative criticises Czech Republic on media freedom

In an official statement published today, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the Hungarian Miklós Haraszti urges the Czech President Vaclav Klaus to veto the new draft criminal code just passed by the Czech parliament, which according to Harszti will threaten media freedom in the Czech Republic.

Quoting from the statement:
Haraszti objected to the code's provision that could sentence journalists to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to five million crowns for the publication of conversations wiretapped by the police. He also criticized the code for failing to decriminalize defamation.


Haraszti was also critical of the draft law's failure to differentiate between the liability of state officials who leak information and the liability of civilians, including journalists.


In addition, he expressed disappointment that the Criminal Code missed the unique opportunity to decriminalize defamation during this legislative reform, and argued that such cases should be dealt with in civil, not criminal, courts.

"A 21st-century Criminal Code in Europe should not preserve crimes that have proven to be incompatible with the modern concept of free speech," Haraszti warned. "They are also at odds with the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, and even with the practice of the Czech Constitutional Court."
These are quite harsh words against the present EU Council Presidency, and the condemnation by the OSCE representative is very alarming in my ears.

For me, it is unacceptable that the country representing the Council - and thus all 27 member states - sets an example of violating common European values, norms, and standards - so Mr Klaus, stop this law!