What is the current situation? At the end of December 2022, Deník N reported that experts from the Government Office and the Ministry of the Interior had already prepared a concrete plan on how the Czech state should combat disinformation. The plan covers a range of areas, from media education to prosecuting the disseminators of disinformation websites or demonetizing disinformation channels to financial support for independent media or non-profit organizations. It can be assumed that this plan will go through an inter-ministerial comment procedure and then be submitted to the Government of the Czech Republic for approval. According to the government’s media and disinformation commissioner Michal Klíma, the government could discuss the plan by March 2023.
Why is the fight against disinformation crucial? Czech society has been a frequent target of disinformation campaigns since at least 2014. Many of them correspond to the Kremlin’s interests on our territory, and the covid-19 pandemic has shown that disinformation campaigns can not only erode trust in democracy, but also endanger human lives. For example, according to a STEM survey published in March 2021, 40% of Czech men and women using the internet trusted disinformation and conspiracies about covid-19. According to another STEM survey from May 2022, 76% of male and female citizens consider disinformation a threat to the security of the Czech Republic.
Which areas of the fight against disinformation do we consider the most important? The above-mentioned plan includes a number of areas in which its authors suggest steps that the Czech government should take. There is no other way to combat disinformation, as it is a complex problem whose effects can be seen at many levels of the state and society. However, we consider two specific steps to be the most crucial:
- The government needs to identify a clear responsibility for this area, i.e. to assign clear responsibility for the implementation of the plan and coordination between other institutions. If this does not happen, the sensitive area of combating disinformation will be tossed around like a hot potato by the various authorities.
- The government must make sufficient funds available for the fight against disinformation to ensure that adequate staffing for this agenda is also available in the relevant offices. Without quality staff and sufficient funds, the plan cannot be implemented effectively.