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Czech Republic: Recordings show TV channel ordered staff to negatively cover refugee arrivals

Evidence has emerged that the Czech Republic's 2nd biggest commercial television channel TV Prima ordered journalists to report negatively on the "refugee crisis". Last Tuesday, the news site posted an audio recording of a meeting held on 7 September 2015, where reporters were informed that their management saw refugees as a threat and requested them to cover related information accordingly. They were notified that they should find new jobs if they refused to accept this editorial line. Read more

Although the existence of such guidelines was considered as speculation by most media prior to the publication of the recording, an analysis undertaken by and another one commissioned by the Council on Radio and Television Broadcasts confirmed the suspicions.

The first investigation focused on the content of TV Prima's main newscast, comparing August coverage to the one of September. It concluded that the change in the tone is obvious: from 1 August to 7 September, news reports with positive angle toward refugees constituted 9% of the output, negative reports 27% and neutral ones 53%; while from 7 to 30 September, positively slanted reports disappeared entirely, 28% was neutral and 72% was negative. In general, both refugee-related coverage and the use of emotional language increased, with a emphasis on stereotypes and threat allegations.

Similarly, the second analysis, which covered the period 24 August - 13 September 2015, found that all newscasts broadcasted after the meeting depict a reality where refugees on the move outside of Europe "don't exist", until they begin to head to Europe and promote the idea that:

  1. migration in its current form is reaching unprecedented levels,
  2. the "refugee crisis" is getting out of control and destabilising the Czech society,
  3. the situation is escalating, the crisis is intensifying and therefore, the country is in an extraordinary (significantly dangerous) state that deserves enormous attention from the media,
  4. Middle East refugees are impossible to integrate.

Furthermore, from 25 to 28 September, a series titled "Refugee Crisis Intensifies", made of clips showing crowds of refugees moving on foot, communicating sheer numbers of arrivals and repeating the frequently unspecified potentially devastating consequences of their massive presence, was introduced. Journalists also confirm to have receive instructions to manipulate testimonies.

As third most watched TV channel in the Czech Republic, Prima is influential. It is partially owned by the Swedish company MTG, which representative declared that the group has clear regulations regarding editorial independence of the press and to be in discussion with the management of TV Prima in order to better comprehend what actually happened.

Read Prima's defense blaming the non-existence of a national broadcast regulation

Read the full transcription of the recording (in Czech and English)