Czech TV anchor Martin Řezníček speaks about Czechia's media landscape
Martin Řezníček is one of the anchors of the Czech Public Television flagship news program Události. He recently moderated a key debate in the Czech presidential election campaign. His firm and flawless performance angered one of the candidates: Andrej Babiš the opposition leader who ultimately lost the election to Petr Pavel.
Martin has had a very rich journalistic career working for the Czech Section of the BBC World Service in Prague and London and spending some 5 years in the United States as a correspondent. I went to see him in his office on Kavčí hory, or Jackdaw Mountains, where the Czech Public Television has its headquarters. Even though he studied television journalism at the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University in Prague, he says young people who want to be journalists should try to get a different background:
“When I get to meet students and they ask me, ‘I want to be a journalist, should I study journalism?’, I tell them ‘Don't study journalism, study something particular, something that will give you expertise. Study economy, sociology, political science, or anything basically, that will give you background and knowledge in a particular field. And you can learn practical journalism later. Yes, of course, it takes some time. But vice versa, you will never be able to catch up with the expertise. So do something and then come back, we'll teach you journalism, quite easily. I studied journalism myself and I would have preferred if I studied more, maybe, international relations that I did as well, or any other field because it does pay off very well.”
Martin is quite active in the European Broadcasting Union. He was elected a member of one of its key news-related committees:
“The news committee has various subcommittees, like the editorial subcommittee, for example. For me at the beginning, and even now, I find issues understanding it. On the other hand, these committees, including the digital committee, are established to solve problems. We don't really meddle with ideology or anything like that. That's not the point. The point is to make our media and EBU work better, seamlessly, and more efficiently. I believe that's the goal of these various bodies at EBU. It's the highlight of your week, the Friday meetings. “
Czechs elected their president for the next five years at the beginning of 2023. Martin Řezníček moderated one of the presidential debates. It was quite a “ride” and he experienced an attempt at manipulation and intimidation from one of the candidates first-hand:
“Andrej Babiš and his team at first refused to take part in the debate. They were telling us indirectly for most of the preceding week that they would not take part in the debate. And he only showed up a couple of minutes before the debate, apparently to derail us. The problem with the debate was that one of the candidates abided by the basic rules of an interview, decency, and politeness, while the other did not. The other would be telling things that were far from the truth, would not respond at all, and would try to verbally intimidate everyone in the room. I have often pondered our approach to this debate. When you compare it to football, for instance, where one team is playing by the rules and the other isn't, the referee, like the moderator, will call out the team that breaks the rules more often. To those watching from home, it might have seemed that I was harder on Mr. Babiš than Mr. Pavel, but that wasn't the case. I just wanted them both to answer my questions, which Mr. Babiš often refused to do.”
But all in all, the Czech presidential elections of 2023 confirmed, that the Czech democracy is stable:
“For someone who grew up in the communist regime in the 80s, although I was really young when the Berlin Wall came down, every election is a celebration. It's a celebration of democracy. Just the possibility of you being able to vote for someone that you want to vote for is great. I think the Czechs showed that they could withstand the enormous… you know, volatility of the campaign and wilderness of the campaign and so on, and then decide they will vote for this or that. And it was, in the end, it was not as neck and neck as it seemed to be, but it was, you know, part, a big part of the population still voted for it for Mr. Babish. And I think that's just democracy. Next time someone else will win. We have to respect the rules and respect the resolved, whoever wins.”
What matters perhaps most, young people today have a different mindset than those of us in Czechia, who grew up under Communism:
“The younger generation in the Czech Republic doesn't carry the baggage of communism like we do. It's still a part of our DNA, but I see the situation improving with the younger generation. They have opportunities we didn't, and they can travel and experience the world. I'm optimistic about them, but I hope they realize the importance of maintaining democracy. It requires daily effort, and things can change quickly if not guarded.”
For the full-length interview with Martin Řezníček, look for Czechast on your favorite listening platform.