Happy New Year from me and our President. pic.twitter.com/ZhlMamlXtW— Miloš Zeman (@TipsyMilosZeman) December 31, 2016
President Donald Trump is regularly caught saying things that sound too absurd to be true. Now, another world leader known for putting his foot in his mouth has made the news.
Milos Zeman, the president of the Czech Republic, is famous worldwide for a series of remarks that appear to target people for their personal beliefs, often associating them with infamous historical figures (and even animals) simply because of his personal dislike for their ideologies.
In the past, Zeman called reporters “hyenas” and “manure.” He has also suggested that vegetarians and people who abstain from drinking alcohol should be put to death, but he later said his comments weren't interpreted correctly as he was referring to Adolf Hitler. He has also shown he has no idea what Islam is by calling it a “religion of death.”
Reports indicate that Zeman told Putin that “[t]here are too many journalists,” adding that they should be “liquidated.”
After his comments created an uproar among critics, Zeman’s spokesman Jiri Ovcacek issued a statement arguing that “[j]ournalists never understand bon mots,” which are clever remarks. He also accused the critical comments surrounding the president's statements as manufactured controversy.
Despite the effort to take the media's attention away from the faux pas, the Sunday incident caught on tape was widely criticized, prompting critics to show the Czech president no sympathy. As a result, the seemingly anti-free speech comments made by Zeman also prompted members of his own government to speak out.
Martin Kupka, vice chairman of the Czech center-right Civic Democratic Party, said that Russian journalists endure a great deal of violence on a regular basis, making Zeman's comments “very serious and all the more so inappropriate.”
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka took a stab at the Czech president's comment on Twitter by retweeting a story that shows journalists being attacked in Russia. Culture Minister Daniel Herman added that the remark was “unacceptable,” and Czech member of the European Parliament Pavel Telicka said that Zeman's comments prove he isn't fit to serve as president.
Zeman v ?ín? s Putinem o novinarich jen potvrdil, ze si nezaslouží podporu kandidatury. Neni zp?sobily ú?ad vykonavat.— Pavel Teli?ka (@Telicka) May 14, 2017
According to The New York Times, press freedom in the Czech Republic has become a serious problem recently as most of the major news media outlets in the country are often concentrated in the hands of very influential people, such as Finance Minister Andrej Babis.
As the owner of Mafra, the country's most influential publishing houses, Babis has been heard discussing politics and news coverage with one of the journalists who works for him. The leaked audio put in question his past comments concerning his company being editorially independent.
Despite the issues with the country's press, it's very telling that the leader of a country would be willing to joke with such an important matter in this careless way — if presidents are so afraid of journalists, it's because they should be.