Czech Radio 1968 memorial partly overshadowed by anti-Babiš protest
One of the key events marking Tuesday’s anniversary of the Soviet-led invasion was a memorial at Czech Radio, scene of the worst violence on August 21, 1968. However, the ceremony was partly overshadowed by a raucous demonstration against Prime Minister Andrej Babiš.
The unveiling was performed by the station’s director general, René Zavoral, and Rudolf Matys.
Now 80, Mr. Matys was an editor at Czechoslovak Radio in 1968. He recalls fire and smoke as the station was attacked by Soviet tanks – and a spirit of defiance.
“I was happy about one thing. For a few days at least, a certain inner strength and national solidarity became stronger and stronger. And that I hadn’t expected. I knew that such things could come along when conditions are more positive. But for the nation to unite in such a critical moment… Unfortunately it was only for a year.”
“We can see around us abuse of the freedom that comes with democracy and of opportunities that we can’t always defend effectively. This includes a flood of information of all kinds – and it is very hard to orient oneself. 1968 showed the fundamental role of public service media in critical moments.”
When Prime Minister Andrej Babiš attempted to speak he was almost completely drowned out by protestors, who whistled and chanted “shame” and “StB”, in reference to the fact he has been accused of collaborating with the Communist-era secret police.
However, the ANO leader attempted to soldier on.
This man, who said he was not a member of any party, explained why he had come out to protest against Mr. Babiš.
“It’s 50 years since the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Russian soldiers and this anniversary should not be sullied by an StB man who has enabled the Communists to be in power. No other democratic party wants to enter government with them… I don’t want my children to live through what I did.”
Countless other events have also been held around the country observing Tuesday’s landmark anniversary.