Czech MPs want to tighten ban on top politicians' media ownership

In a meeting next week, the government coalition is seeking to include a stricter ban on media ownership.


Written by ČTK Published on 12.05.2023 13:00:00 (updated on 12.05.2023) Reading time: 2 minutes

Prague’s Chamber of Deputies will vote on a bill that tightens the ban on media ownership by top politicians on May 19. Lower house head Markéta Pekarová Adamová called the urgent session, said government press secretary Martin Churavý.

The government coalition MPs have initiated the call to meet and are seeking to include a stricter ban on media ownership in a government amendment that modifies the management of the Office for Supervising Political Parties and Movements.

The opposition ANO movement has been blocking a debate on the bill for several months. The proposed ban on media ownership by top politicians, as well as taking subsidies and investment incentives in the provision of the law on conflict of interest, also known as Lex Babiš, relates to the business activities of ANO chairman and former Czech prime minister Andrej Babiš.

During the February discussion on the amendment, ANO MPs unsuccessfully tried to suspend the debate either until the end of 2024 or at least until the next session of the Chamber of Deputies, describing it as a “rider.”

The proposed change mainly modifies the provision that bans public officials from running radio and television broadcasts and publishing periodicals. The change would ensure that the ban could not be circumvented by applying to the actual owner of the media operator, not the controlling person. The same would apply to companies in the case of the ban on receiving subsidies and investment incentives, which are aimed at government members.

The amendment also adjusts the fines for the breach of the ban on operating certain media outlets. According to the amendment, an official who commits a misdemeanor through a company could be fined up to 3 percent of the company's assets by the supervisory authority. Before imposing a fine, the authority would first take “appropriate measures” such as selling the medium, which was part of the government reservations.

The changes in the supervisory authority are aimed at improving its supervisory role and law enforcement, according to the government. After the provision banning media ownership and drawing subsidies and investment incentives came into force in 2017, Babiš transferred his shares of the Agrofert and SynBiol companies into trust funds. Agrofert includes the Mafra group, one of the largest media owners in the Czech Republic.

The amendment is intended to apply to public officials and government members in general but is primarily related to the business activities of Babiš.

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