Opposition MP to help create new government website explaining COVID-19 restrictions

Illustrative photo: Gerd Altmann, Pixabay / CC0

After criticizing the way in which Covid-19 restrictions are being presented to the public, the Czech Republic’s youngest MP, Dominik Feri, has announced that he will work with the government to launch a new website that will clearly communicate and explain current and future anti-coronavirus measures. He met with Prime Minister Andrej Babiš to discuss the project on Friday.

Dominik Feri, photo: Ladislav Bruštík, Czech Radio

Dominik Feri, from the opposition TOP 09 party, says he has been given the green light from the prime minister to put together a new official information platform, which should present a clear and comprehensive survey of the coronavirus measures adopted.

“I was finally able to persuade the prime minister about the need to create a new information website. An independent team will work on it. Mr. Babiš admitted that the ministries are having problems communicating their strategy. So, the opposition will help.”

Feri says he will work in close cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Advisor for IT and Digitalization, Vladimír Dzurilla and Česko.digital, a community of software developers and other experts, who will also provide know-how for the new platform. The information website should be ready in two weeks and the MP says it is important that the new venture should not repeat previous mistakes.

Andrej Babiš, photo: Archive of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic

“It will not be just a website, but a whole system that will connect each ministry to the communications team. The team will then be able to answer specific questions. It cannot be another call centre with clueless operators unable to provide information.”

The government’s communication strategy has frequently come under fire from the members of the opposition. Feri himself questioned it in the Chamber of Deputies last week, pointing out that the government-imposed restrictions were written in “legalese” and were often not specific enough, creating problems for many business owners in the service sector. He suggested setting up a website that would present the restrictions in simple language. In response, the prime minister conceded that government communication was weak and accepted the MP’s offer to help.

Denisa Hejlová, photo: Věra Luptáková, Czech Radio

The country’s youngest MP, has already been running a public information campaign on his Instagram account, where he has posted regular updates about government measures since the epidemic began in the spring, amassing a following of over seven hundred thousand mostly young Czechs. Denisa Hejlová, head of Marketing Communication and Public Relations at Charles University’s Faculty of Social Sciences, praised his efforts in an interview for Czech Radio.

“In interacting with young people, Dominik Feri is doing the government’s job for them. He communicates with young people on his Instagram, and because that format is more credible for them, they absorb the information much better. The government needs more such people.”

The upcoming weeks will show whether Feri’s social media popularity can translate into this new project, and whether this rare attempt at direct cooperation between the government and a member of the opposition will bear fruit.