Czech President holds up replica gun marked ‘for journalists’ in press conference

President's comments come as populist billionaire who owns two of the country’s leading newspapers and a radio station becomes Prime Minister

Maya Oppenheim
Monday 23 October 2017 10:15 BST
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The President has previously referred to journalists as 'manure' and 'hyenas'
The President has previously referred to journalists as 'manure' and 'hyenas'

The President of the Czech Republic has affronted reporters by brandishing a replica gun with the words “for journalists” inscribed on it during a press conference.

Milos Zeman, who has been in office since 2013, prompted particular controversy because his stunt comes just a week after a prominent investigative journalist was killed with a car bomb in Malta.

Malta’s government have said they are offering an “unprecedented” reward of €1m (£890,000) for information about who killed Daphne Caruana Galizia. The journalist, who has been dubbed a “one-woman WikiLeaks”, unearthed Maltese links to the Panapa Papers leaks and her reporting on corruption has targeted the PM and other senior political figures in Malta.

Mr Zeman has prompted controversy for his remarks about the press in the past and previously referred to journalists as “manure” and “hyenas.”

In May, he joked to Vladimir Putin that some of the journalists at event needed to be “liquidated” in comments which were widely condemned in the Czech Republic.

Mr Zeman’s brandishing of the mock submachine gun which included the “At journalists” inscription come just before the country voted in a populist billionaire. Mr Zeman said he would be naming Andrej Babis, the country’s second-richest man, the country’s Prime Minister on Saturday.

Critics voiced concern about Mr Babis’ clout in the media as he owns two of the country’s leading newspapers and a radio station and raised the prospect of a potential conflict of interests. Mr Babis, who is the leader of the anti-establishment ANO party, rose to power on an explicitly anti-establishment and Eurosceptic platform.

Press freedom is an issue in the country because the Czech news media is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few highly wealthy individuals.

Mr Zeman, a former PM who helped prepare the ground for the country joining the European Union in 2004, holds a predominantly ceremonial role but does have important powers under the Constitution.

He has become famed for making incendiary comments. Back in 2016, he urged Czechs to arm themselves against a potential “Super Holocaust” which would apparently be carried out by Muslims. He has also referred to Islam as a “religion of death.”

What’s more, he once suggested vegetarians and teetotalers should be put to death and then explained he was referring to Hitler - who refrained from consuming alcohol and meat.

In September, he triggered a diplomatic row by suggesting Bosnia and Herzegovina could become a base for Isis.

In November 2014, on the 25th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, thousands engaged in a demonstration against Mr Zeman in protest against his pro-Russian stance and vulgar language.

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