Prague - Czech president Václav Klaus signed Friday the bill containing amendments that would outlaw publishing police wiretaps leaked to the media. It was to no one's surprise this time, though.
Earlier Klaus wrote a letter addressed to the Czech Syndicate of Journalists that called on the president earlier not to sign the controversial bill.
"I understand your concern as a journalistic association and media owners. However, the role of president is not to side with any interest group, albeit it is powerful as media can be. The role is to follow the interests of everybody," Klaus says in his letter.
Further, he argued in a similar way as Czech MPs that overturned a Senate veto on the bill last week.
"I understand that some journalists would like to raise their professional status and popularity by unlawful publication of information that have the potential (and it has happened many times before) to irreversibly damage reputation, honor and social status of some innocent citizens," says Klaus's letter.
"I am afraid that the debate about alleged curtailed freedom of speech in relation to the bill is false," Klaus wrote to different Czech media outlets on Thursday.
Journalists as criminals
The bill criminalizes publication of broadcast and telephone recordings made by police and leaked to the media. Journalists who will make leaked wiretaps public will face heavy sanctions of up to 180,000 euros or in extreme cases a jail sentence of up to five years.
The bill sparked criticism not only among Czech journalists, some politicians, such as senator Petr Pitthart and Kateřina Jacques (Green Party vice-chairwoman) but also among international media watch-dogs, such as the International Press Institute (IPI) and Reporters Without Borders, which called on Klaus to veto it.
"We will consider the whole issue once again and then decided whether we will hand the case over to the Constitutional court," Civic Democratic senator Jiří Oberfalzer told Aktuálně.cz on Thursday.
"Some of the senators have not made up their minds yet, so we will take some time. I expect to know more in a couple of weeks," he added.