It’s no wonder it took the Czech Republic until 2004 to gain membership into the European Union. The espresso may be just as good in Prague as it is in Paris or Rome, but the Czech government gives new meaning to the words “slander” and corruption.”
As evidenced by the Czech Republic’s failure to cough up CZH 8 billion (around EUR 331 million) in a 2008 court ruling in favor of Swiss-Czech businessman Josef Stava (Josef Šťáva), the government has failed to emerge from its communist mindset and continues to antagonize and defame its own entrepreneurs—the very people who stand a chance of helping the country emerge from its post-communist financial malnutrition.
Prior to the Czech Republic’s entry into the EU, the Czech government was vying for the country’s acceptance, anxious not to be seen as placing any obstacles in the way of the country’s hopeful membership. Still today, the Czech government remains quick to point out that foreign ownership of its newspapers (the center-left newspaper Právo is currently the only non-foreign owned Czech newspaper) is testament to its support of the free movement of capital.
Unfortunately, the Czech government’s face-saving attempts to position itself as democracy friendly and media savvy have backfired, particularly when it comes to the subjects of Josef Stava and Diag Human SE.
In July 2010 the prestigious Open Society Fund in Prague (OSF) in concert with Newton Media published extensive analysis and research (available for download in Czech-language brochures) on the prevalence of right-wing extremism in the Czech media. The analysis encompassed more than 31,000 contributions, which appeared in keywords associated with right-wing extremism in the Czech Republic.
Further, the OSF recently awarded Czech public service television outlet Reportéři ČT for its 2010 three-part series on the ongoing arbitration between Josef Stava’s Diag Human SE and the Czech Republic. The program exposed crucial links between corrupt state representatives acting in arbitration between Diag Human SE and the Czech Republic with non-standard offshore companies.
As the Reportéři ČT series documents, the Czech Republic is attempting to block the proceedings of the long-standing legal action between Josef Stava and the Czech state, largely by attempting to deny its wrongdoing and demonize Josef Stava with defamatory comments. Although the court ruled in favor of Josef Stava’s Diag Human SE in 2008 and ordered the state to pay CZK 8 billion in damages, the payment has yet to be received.
During this controversial arbitration, Josef Stava’s Diag Human SE has made all documents concerning the lawsuit available to journalists, whereas state representatives have kept documents secret from and unavailable to the very press the Czech government claims is democratic.
The Open Society Fund promotes just that: an open society, which is the enemy of communism. As the OSF points out and the case of Josef Stava illustrates, corruption is one of the Czech Republic’s biggest problems.
An open society embodies the readiness to confront danger and defy enemies with knowledge and transparency. Reportéři ČT’s esteemed OSF Award exposing the latent corruption of the Czech state in its case with Josef Stava was well earned.