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July 18, 2019
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Czech SocDem chair threatens to bring down Govt if ultranationalist nominee appointed to Czech News Agency board

19.6.2019 10:27
Michal Semín (in the center, holding a flag) at an event of the ultraconservative D.O.S.T. initiative, which supported the
Michal Semín (in the center, holding a flag) at an event of the ultraconservative D.O.S.T. initiative, which supported the "Freedom and Direct Democracy of Tomio Okamura" movement, which nominated Semín for the board of the Czech News Agency. (PHOTO: Wikipedia)

If Michal Semín, the candidate nominated by the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) movement for election to the board of the Czech News Agency (ČTK), were to be voted for by the governing ANO movement, that would be unacceptable to the Czech Social Democratic Party (ČSSD), which is in the governing coalition. ČSSD chair Jan Hamáček told journalists on 17 June that if governing coalition partners are unable to trust each other when it comes to such essential votes, there is no point in continuing the coalition.

The vote in the Chamber of Deputies was scheduled to be the subject of yesterday's cabinet meeting. "We must finish up the debate from last week, where we mainly focused on how we are functioning in the Chamber of Deputies so that we don't surprise each other," Hamáček said on Monday.

The ČSSD chair added that support for any SPD candidates by ANO with respect to such personnel would be unacceptable to his party. None of the candidates proposed for the two seats on the board of the Czech News Agency that will be vacated tomorrow were successfully elected by the lower house earlier this month.

A total of 89 votes was necessary to appoint a new member, and Semín got 83. The second round of voting will include him and a local assembly member for the ANO movement in Prague 3, David Soukup, who got 82 votes; the director of the nonprofit Endowment Fund for Independent Journalism, Josef Šlerka, nominated by the Christian Democrats and Pirates (72 votes); and the former chair of the ČTK board, Tomáš Mrázek, nominated by the Civic Democratic Party (ODS), who got 36 votes.

Hamáček said Monday that the election of Semín would be an enormous problem. "Mr Semín is unacceptable to us," he said.

"His appointment would mean the trust [between ANO and ČSSD] is simply not functioning. If we are incapable of believing each other about such basic matters, there is no point in continuing," the ČSSD chair said.

The governing coalition should, in Hamáček's opinion, discuss the functioning of the Government and what its members understand the coalition agreement to mean. The seven-member board of the Czech News Agency is how the public exercises its right to audit the public broadcasting sector's wire service.

The powers of the board include, for example, appointing and removing the Director General and approving the agency's budget, and candidates for the board are proposed by the parties seated in the lower house. The ČTK covers all of its operations through its own commercial activity.

The lower house is choosing new members of the board to replace its chair, Miroslav Augustin (for ANO) and Jakub Heikenwälder (for the Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL), whose five-year terms are ending. The head of ANO's faction in the lower house, MP Jaroslav Faltýnek, wrote to ČTK last week and informed its management that ANO is striving to see its candidate, Soukup, elected.

"The voting is secret and I, unlike the media, do not know who voted for whom," Faltýnek said. Last week the Federation of Jewish Communities also objected to Semín, who is a member of the ultraconservative "Akce D.O.S.T." group, saying that he has made remarks against Judaism and the supervision of the public broadcasting wire service should not be entrusted to people with a fundamentalist world view.

ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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D.O.S.T, Média, Poslanecká sněmovna, Radikalizace



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