Recording shows Prima ordered journalists to report negatively on refugees

Photo: CTK

Evidence has emerged that Prima TV ordered its journalists to report negatively on refugees. In a recording of an editorial meeting last year, the channel’s head of news is heard telling reporters to present asylum seekers as a threat or consider finding new jobs. The audio file was made public on Tuesday by independent news website Hlídací and has sparked a debate about journalistic ethics. I asked Hlídací Pes’s founder Robert Břešťan how he had reacted on first hearing the recording.

Robert Břešťan,  photo: Khalil Baalbaki
“Of course I was surprised that something like this… maybe not happened, but that something like this was recorded.

“It could be the fact that something like this is happening at other Czech media as well.

“But this is proof that the management of some media is forcing their editorial staff, the journalists, to broadcast or write about some concrete theme from the same position as the management of the TV has.

“My reaction was, This is important, this is interesting and we have to write about it – because it’s in the public interest.”

How do you feel the journalists at that meeting should have reacted?

“I think they must have been surprised, but I can’t be sure it happened for the first time only.

“We know that one the journalists immediately after this meeting decided to leave Prima.

“But clearly many of the journalists are still working there. Maybe they don’t consider it a problem or they are afraid they can lose their job, they have families, they want to work there.

“You know, it’s hard to judge them.”

Some people might say that Prima is a commercial TV station not a public broadcaster, many Czechs do have a negative view of refugees, and that Prima should be free to appeal to that section of the Czech audience.

Photo: CTK
“Prima and other Czech media – or every media in the world – have the right to have their own view on anything.

“But it’s a basic journalistic law, let’s say, that news and opinion should differ.

“When you have an opinion, you have an opinion, but when you have news, news should be objective and neutral. You can’t do news according to the opinion of the management of a TV station.”

Do you expect any consequences for this revelation for TV Prima?

“Definitely there will be some outcome. The Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting will be working on this. In fact I expect some small fine in the future.

“The boss of the council told us that they’re going to make another analysis of the Prima’s broadcasting and it will be finished maybe some time in the autumn – which is really a long time from this story.”