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Controversial journalist known for her anti-refugee and anti-Romani slant will not head Czech Radio's news division

20.12.2021 16:09
Jitka Obzinová (PHOTO: TV Prima)
Jitka Obzinová (PHOTO: TV Prima)

The former head of the TV Prima news division, Jitka Obzinová, after being criticized as the nominee for the post of director of Czech Radio's news division, will not be appointed to the position after all. From 1 January 1 2022 the editor-in-chief of Radiožurnál, Ondřej Suchan, could be managing the news division until the selection of its permanent boss.  

René Zavoral, CEO of Czech Radio (ČRo), made the announcement Friday. Obzinová's appointment was criticized by politicians and radio employees, according to whom she would have jeopardized the objectivity and independence of the news division.

The Czech Radio Employees' Initiative #nebudemezticha ("We will not be silent") welcomed Zavoral's decision, but will still ask him to explain his original change of personnel in the role. Last week, at a meeting of the Czech Radio Council, Zavoral announced the appointment of Obzinová inJanuary to the position previously held by Jan Pokorný.

Obzinová has previously worked as the news director of TV Prima, where, according to critics, she was involved in manipulating the news. According to critics, for example, she influenced reports on refugees so as to arouse anti-immigration passions, or ahead of the presidential election in 2013, she encouraged editors to be more accommodating to candidate Miloš Zeman.

In 2014, the Radio and Television Broadcasting Council (RRTV) stated that Prima Television, in its main news program, had affirmed viewers' stereotypical prejudices against the Roma minority, for example. Among other things, the criticized reports aroused fear of the Roma and showed them as criminals or as a group involved in destroying their surroundings.

The RRTV also dealt with an audio recording acquired by news server "Hlídací pes" ("Watchdog") that proved the Prima news staff had been instructed by their management to portray the migration crisis as a risk and a threat, effectively ignoring the principles of objectivity and balance. The recording was made during a staff meeting and Obzinová was captured there as directly involved in the manipulation of the news.

During Obzinová's tenure at Prima, the RRTV also criticized the broadcasts ahead of the presidential election for being unbalanced. "I met with Ms Jitka Obzinová today. We both love Czech Radio so much that it will always come before anybody's career. Both of us care about Czech Radio's stability and strong position. Together, we have agreed that she will not take up the position of Czech Radio's news director. I approached the current editor-in-chief of the ČRo Radiožurnál station, Ondřej Suchan, to ask if from 1 January 2022, until the selection of a permanent director, the ČRo News Division could be temporarily managed by him. Ondřej Suchan asked me for time to think about this offer until the beginning of next week, which I accepted," Zavoral said in the statement on Friday.    

"We welcome the fact that Jitka Obzinová will not be taking up the position of Czech Radio News Director. We believe credibility has been damaged by this situation. We ask that CEO René Zavoral explain in detail at a meeting with employees next Tuesday what reasons lay behind the personnel change he has advocated. We believe that whoever becomes the director of the news division in the future will be a trustworthy person who will guarantee the continuation of the independence of this public service medium," said Václav Štefan, spokesperson for the initiative #nebudemezticha.

Last Wednesday, Zavoral justified the staffing change to the chief of the news division by saying he needs a "crisis manager" who will face up to the need to significantly reduce the division's budget and the number of positions there. After the announcement, critical voices began to be heard from employees as well as politicians and public figures. 

An open letter calling on Zavoral to cancel the appointment has so far been signed by 600 of the radio's 1,400 employees. Doubts about Zavoral's move were expressed on Twitter by, for example, the Speaker of the Czech Chamber of Deputies, Czech MP Markéta Pekarová Adamová (TOP 09) or by a vice-chair of that chamber, Czech MP Jan Bartošek (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL), who called the appointment unacceptable. 

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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antigypsyism, Český rozhlas, Media, Prima TV



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