Czech president holds up gun marked ‘for journalists’ in latest dig at press – National
The president of the Czech Republic is under fire for an inappropriate prop he brought to a press conference.
The item in question? A replica AK-47 that was labelled “for journalists.” What appeared to be a bottle of liquor was attached to the gun in place of an ammunition clip.
Milos Zeman brought the gun out on the country’s election day on Friday, where billionaire businessman Andrej Babis, leader of the populist ANO movement and a Zeman ally, won with nearly 30 per cent of the vote and is expected to become prime minister.
Critics are worried about the future of an independent media because Babis owns his own media empire.
Zeman received the gun as a gift during his travels throughout the country, The Washington Post reports.
He has often come under fire for his comments on the press. In May, he told Russian president Vladimir Putin that they needed to “liquidate journalists” because there was too many of them. Zeman and Putin were in Beijing to discuss the “one belt, one road” economic plan, The New York Times reported.
At the time, his spokesman told reporters that it was a joke.
Zeman has also been quoted calling journalists “hyenas” and “manure.” When Zeman was sworn in in 2013, he attacked the country’s media on his first day in office, saying some of them “brainwash” and “manipulate public opinion,” and has continued to make critical remarks.
Journalists and human rights groups condemned Friday’s actions, though some said it was merely a joke.
“Not funny,” Human Rights Watch’s European media director Andrew Stroehlein wrote on Twitter.
The timing of the incident is particularly incendiary since it came only days after an investigative reporter was killed in a car bomb in Malta.
Daphne Caruana Galizia, who first reported on Malta’s connections with the Panama Papers, was killed on Oct. 16. The government has offered a reward for information on who killed her.
On Monday, Russian journalist Tatyana Felgenhauer was stabbed after an assailant broke into her studio. She is currently in a medically induced coma.
But Europe isn’t the only place where freedom of the press is in jeopardy.
David Kaye, the U.N. special rapporteur on the freedom of expression, said in September that U.S. President Donald Trump’s attacks against the media, such as a Feb. 17 tweet listing news outlets that he considered “the enemy of the American People,” were aimed at intimidating reporters into certain kinds of coverage.
— With a file from Reuters and the Associated Press
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