“Na tom samopalu je vypálený nápis ´Na noviná?e’. M?žete se za?ít postupn? stahovat dozadu, protože neumím st?ílet.” pic.twitter.com/26nneyciAY— Michal Kubal (@MichalKubal) October 20, 2017
Czech Republic President Milos Zeman, in a crude joke about his dour relationship with the press, appeared at a press conference holding a fake wooden firearm with the words “for journalists” inscribed on it.
Zeman was gifted the submachine toy gun while he was visiting the Plzen region. The AK-47’s magazine was also replaced with his favorite liquor bottle. The gift was a succinct message about the things the president is known for: his love for firearms and alcohol and his hatred of journalists.
Zeman proudly brandished the fake rifle during the press conference on Friday and later, on Saturday, announced he would name Andrej Babis, a populist billionaire who is also the head of anti-establishment ANO party, as prime minister.
Critics have voiced concerns about the appointment since Babis owns two of Czech Republic’s leading newspapers and a radio station. His media dominance is a conflict of interest and threatens to show the government in a much more favorable light than reality.
The anti-journalist gun stunt came at a particularly bad time: Just last week, a prominent investigative journalist was assassinated.
Journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia was investigating into the Panama Papers and had recently revealed that Malta Prime Minister Joseph Mucat was involved in corruption. The journalist, dubbed as a “one-woman Wikileaks,” was killed with a car bomb in Malta.
Friends of Galizia said the state did not provide the reporter with sufficient protection.
“This is a political murder because it clearly has a political context and the state did not protect a journalist who was in danger,” said the Guardian.
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange offered 20,000 euros ($23,525) for information linking to her killers.
This isn’t the first time Zemen has shown disdain for the press. In May, the president said journalists should be “liquidated” during a conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. His officer later said the comment was a joke and claimed “journalists never understand bon mots.”
The head of state has also labeled reporters as “hyenas” and “manure” and argued they were people who “write about everything and understand nothing.”
In 2016, global press freedom reached a 13-year low amid threats to journalists and media outlets by major democracies and authoritarian states.
“It is the far-reaching attacks on the news media and their place in a democratic society by Donald Trump…that fuels predictions of further setbacks in the years to come,” Freedom House’s Michael J. Abramowitz wrote. “No U.S. president in recent memory has shown greater contempt for the press than Trump.”
Banner/Thumbnail credits: Reuters, David W Cerny