PC Press Digest

Weekly Press Digest – September 4

Political Critique's weekly selection from the Eastern European press.

Michal Chmela’s selection

The latest attempt to con the Czech public into believing that fraud is in fact against the law by actually prosecuting immigrant oligarch superstar Andrej Babiš has taken another tiny step on Wednesday: the committee decided the vote regarding his Parliamentary immunity will actually take place. The meeting has been tentatively scheduled for the sixth of September and given the man’s political power, it is likely to be as far as the whole matter goes especially since he is more or less bound to be re-elected in October, making the whole circus null and void. Still, the police can say that they tried and everyone will be just that one tiny bit happier that while the system does not work, it occasionally makes an effort to at least make it look like it does.

It is easy to play Babiš for laughs, but his politics do have a terrifying underside, a glimpse into which we received earlier this week when a group of MPs from his party ANO has revealed their vision for the place of media in the country by nominating professional disinformator Petr Žantovský as one the members of the Czech Press Agency’s top deciding body. Žantovský is a genuinely repulsive figure: the man had gone from being a communist propaganda writer before 1989 straight towards representing the ever-louder pro-Russian alt-right in all its racist, xenophobic and illiberal glory. Add the fact the man’s university title is essentially fake since he has not fulfilled the basic requirements for obtaining it and – worst of all – he’s been running a weekly media review on alt-right-slash-conspiracy hub Parlamentní Listy (which nothing to do with the Parliament… yet) and you get one almost compelling reason against the freedom of speech.
Also his media reviews are boring, unfunny, unnecessarily verbose and generally inferior in every way.

I would really love to conclude with a cutesy animal, but it will have to be another example of political hypocrisy: the formerly at least nominally right-wing but now essentially populist ODS (Civic Democratic Party – by now neither of the adjectives apply) has released a pre-election video warning among other things specifically against rich men buying their way into politics, as exemplified by Babiš. An admirable sentiment, obviously; the only tiny problem with it is that ODS itself happens to be co-operating (and taking money of), another shady millionaire, Ivo Valenta. Whose honesty can best be demonstrated by his involvement in the above-mentioned alt-right “news” site. And so we come full circle.

Michal Chmela is a translator and journalist.


Nino Sichinava’s selection

Earthquakes in Primorsky Region were the result of North Korea’s H-bomb

This weekend my hometown in Russia, Vladivostok, became an accidental victim of the H-Bomb testing by North Korea. The resulting earthquake with magnitude 6.3 was felt throughout the region not only in Russia, but also in China and Japan, where the magnitude reached 6.4. The fast-faced development of nuclear weapons in North Korea puts the whole notion of nowadays peace under question. Unlike US, Russia and China favor the diplomatic way of dealing with Kim Jong-un’s strong ambitions.

Russia buys friendship with those who consider it an enemy

The news that the Latvian National Armed Forces decided to purchase a batch of 84-mm anti-tank grenade launchers, spare parts and charges from them from a Swedish company SAAB Dynamics AB for more than 1 million euros were met with shock since few days earlier Latvian Primer-minister and Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation seemed to find a consensus on the transit issue between two countries. Such weird friendship raises a lot of questions in Russia that see a hypocritical behavior in Latvian government. Even though Latvian Minister of Foreign Affairs is, to put it mildly, not in favor of Russian government activities, the Baltic state still seeks to restore the transit and keep diplomatic relations with the big neighbor.

Georgian analytics bring different theories behind the chain forest fires in the country

The fact the Georgia was not ready for such emergency situation is undeniable and brought many ideas for prompt changes in the system. The main task remains to find the reasons why the fire started. Most discussed theory is that it was all the sabotage of the enemies to put country into crisis.  Nine years ago in the Borjomi Gorge, the village of Kaba, Russian helicopters have fired the same place, searching for the heavier techniques of the Georgian army , and occasionally shot the “traps” of heat. These traps are believed to be able to start the fire without any evidence, therefore the sabotage is considered to be done by Russian government. 

Nino Sichinava is an International Relations student at Lazarski University (Poland) and Coventry University (UK). A contributor for Political Critique and European Alternatives.


Anna Azarova’s selection

Adolescents’ sexuality is often a tabooed topic in Russia, and even when some parents or experts do try to bring sexual education to schools, they are often faced with obstacles ranging from stubborn resistance to hostility. Meduza’s looong report looks at how school sexual education developed in Russia since the Soviet times, at parental organisations which believe HIV is a myth, asks sexual educators about their current circumstances and doctors what they would recommend for the future.

Lost track of Russia’s human rights crimes in Crimea? Mediazona’s “brief guide” recounts how the situation of human rights has changed in the peninsula since the Russian annexation, point by point: how people started disappearing in February 2014, the case of film director Oleg Sentsov charged for “terrorism,” how the representative organ of the Crimean Tatars was en bloc declared a terrorist organisation, the persecution of journalists, pro-Ukrainian activists, Muslim party members, “saboteurs,” or torture during interrogations.

Yet another report compares how schoolteachers deal with disorderly behaviour in Hungary and in the UK. Not a lot of surprises here: while in the UK schools are required to have a standardised policy which every teacher must follow, in Hungary everyone is left to their own devices when disciplining children. Unfortunately though, this does not mean that the Hungarian “system” is more personalised – teachers think of misbehaviour as a personal attack on them, and when they decide that someone is a “problematic child,” the label becomes an indelible stigma.

Anna Azarova is a graduate student in Budapest and a freelance translator.


Featured photo by Maria Savenko via Flickr.