Czech TV news station Prima TV told its journalists last September to only cover the refugee crisis negatively, Czech’s Radio Prague reported.
Jitka Obzinová, head of news, said in the tape, according to Aftonbladet, “You must always produce refugees as a threat.”
The scandal broke when independent Czech news website HlídacíPes.org published a leaked audio recording of a September meeting. An English translation of the reporting is here.
“It’s a basic journalistic law, let’s say, that news and opinion should differ,” HlídacíPes’s founder Robert Břešťan told Radio Prague. “When you have an opinion, you have an opinion, but when you have news, news should be objective and neutral. You can’t do news according to the opinion of the management of a TV station.”
Břešťan told iMediaEthics he “asked Prima for official reaction 3 times BEFORE I published the first article: NO ANSWER for ANY of my emails.” He said after he published, Prima denied the story, saying it was speculation, and that after he published the audio recording of the editorial meeting, Prima denied its coverage was biased.
HlídacíPes reported May 30, according to a Google Translate, “HlídacíPes.org has testimony from several sources, according to which the management of TV Prima in a meeting with the editors of 7 September 2015 came with clear instructions on how to have a television in their coverage to build refugee crisis.”
Prima sent iMediaEthics its May 31 English-language statement on the allegations, saying “Prima TV definitely never haven’t misinterpreted any facts in any area in any way.”
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Prima claimed the recording only surfaced after Prima “began to uncover the background of some activist organizations.” Prima also argued the recording was “misleading” because it was a “montage” and a discussion. The statement also says Prima’s owners weren’t “controlling daily news content” and that it will “continue to inform objectively despite manipulative pressure from any side.”
HlídacíPes analyzed Prima’s coverage before and after the dictate to staff. It found that from Aug. 1 to Sept. 7, Prima’s coverage of refugees was
- 9% positive
- 38% negative
- 53% neutral
After the meeting on Sept. 7, coverage until Sept. 30 was all neutral or negative: 27.6% neutral and 72.4% negative, the site found.
The coverage changed by putting “much more emphasis on threats and stereotypes, ‘wealth’ of refugees pictorial images to mobile phones that do not appreciate the hospitality, leaving behind a mess and so on,” HlídacíPes reported, noting there was coverage of alleged health risks refugees could bring.
“Prima is an influential media outlet because it is the third most-watched television station in the Czech Republic – 23 % of the 15 and older age group watch it at some point during the day,” Czech’s Romea reported.
iMediaEthics has written to the Czech broadcasting regulator for more information.