Centrum proti hybridním hrozbám  

Přejdi na

Státní služba  

Rychlé linky: Mapa serveru Textová verze Rozšířené vyhledávání


Hlavní menu



How Czech Quasi-Media Reacted to the Demonstration on 3 September 2022 in Prague

The demonstration that took place on 3 September 2022 in Prague’s Wenceslas Square attracted not only a large crowd, but also the attention of Czech quasi-media and Russian propagandists. 

On the first Saturday of September 2022, a demonstration took place in Prague's Wenceslas Square, organised by Jiří Havel and Ladislav Vrabel. Both have in the past profiled themselves as opponents of the measures against the spread of the COVID-19 (Vrabel had previously been an opponent of immigration within the Bloc Against Islam initiative, formerly We Don’t Want Islam in the Czech Republic), and have now taken up manipulative criticism of the government’s provision of aid to Ukraine and Ukrainian war refugees. This is evidenced by one of the points of their manifesto, posted on their website, where aid to Ukrainian war refugees is described as “planned dilution of the nation”. It is worth noting that Havel and Vrabel also subscribe to the international initiative Reignite World Freedom. According to available sources, it originated in Australia as an anti-COVID-19 movement and gradually adopted other topics such as resistance to globalism and the West in general.

The demonstration received considerable attention on Facebook. The event’s promotion was highly visible as compared to similar events supported by the quasi-media scene, resulting in participation reaching approximately 70 000 people. This crowd was addressed by the likes of the ultraconservative communist Josef Skála, representatives of the anti-government disinformation scene Lubomír Volný, Petra Fajmon Rédová and Jakub Netík, and Vladimíra Vítová, a representative of the far-right Alliance of National Forces. In addition to their manipulative criticism of the Czech government, the speakers also focused extensively on the war in Ukraine, which they blamed on the US, and called for an end to military support for Ukraine. It can thus be qualified as an anti-government demonstration featuring anti-system players and supported by the quasi-media scene, which disseminated, inter alia, Russian propaganda narratives.

Czech quasi-media have been supporting the demonstration from the outset. What is more interesting is their reaction to the popularity of the demonstration. On the one hand, it came on the heels of the event, which is not characteristic even for planned events, on the other hand, it was immediately buoyed by propaganda coming from Russian state media (see below). Such a quick and simultaneous reaction from both domestic quasi-media and Russian state media is not common. One such earlier occurrence took place after Russia’s involvement in the explosion of the ammunition depot in Vrbětice (in 2014) came to light in the spring of 2021.

The first reactions came through during the demonstration itself. The most active coverage was the work of Parlamentní listy (The Parliament Papers, no association with the Parliament of the Czech Republic), which reported on the event itself as well as on individual speakers. The quasi-medium AC24 was also among the first to report general information, adding Twitter comments from dubious accounts supporting the demonstration and criticising NATO. Quasi-media reacted heatedly to prime minister Petr Fiala’s comments claiming that the demonstration was organised by pro-Russian forces. A typical example of such a reaction is the text published by quasi-medium Skrytá pravda (The Hidden Truth), which compared Fiala to the communist Miroslav Štěpán and the communist era in general, alleging that the prime minister was attempting to discredit and suppress legitimate opposition. This narrative was repeated abundantly by other quasi-media.

In the days that followed, the event was widely covered by other quasi-media, with some texts continuing the trend of praising the event and the speakers (here), while others described it as the beginning of a larger social change that would lead not only to the fall of the government, but also to the Czech Republic’s withdrawal from the EU and NATO and renewed cooperation with Russia (here). A new narrative has also emerged that there weren’t 70 000, but 100 000 demonstrators (here or here). This figure was further used to manipulatively attack mainstream media for allegedly deliberately ignoring the event and censoring the organisers (here or here). There were also texts that linked several of the aforementioned narratives together (here).

The vast majority of quasi-media reported positively about the demonstration. The one exception was Aeronet, which reported the event with a mixed to slightly negative sentiment. While Aeronet generally supported the demonstration and praised the high turnout, it drew attention to the murky financing of the event, much like mainstream media did. It also criticised the cutting short of politician Lubomír Volný’s speech and the aforementioned declared connection of the event with the international initiative Reignite World Freedom, which also lacks transparency.

As in the aforementioned Vrbětice case, Russian state media reacted very speedily and with extreme interest to the demonstration. In sum, they emphasised the large number of participants dissatisfied with the government, citing official estimates as well as the enhanced figures claimed by Czech quasi-media (i.e. 100 000 demonstrators, which was echoed by Zvezda). TV Zvezda further emphasised the demonstrators’ demands for an end to the support provided to Ukraine and a start to negotiations with the Kremlin. This was accented by Kommersant and Rossiyskaya Gazeta. TASS also stressed the social importance of the demonstration, comparing it to the protests that took place in November 1989, which led to the Velvet Revolution.

In this context, it is worth mentioning that the Russian media coverage of the event was in turn reflected by Czech quasi-media, specifically the website Skrytá pravda (The Hidden Truth), which quoted from the aforementioned Russian texts in an attempt to prove that Russia allegedly covered the event more truthfully than the Czech mainstream media. This approach can be seen as both an amplification and a defence of Russian propaganda and an attempt to discredit the mainstream media and protect the interpretation of the event by a supposedly independent outside perspective.

The fact that Czech quasi-media reacted uncharacteristically quickly and in significant substantive and timely conformity with Russian state media is not in itself evidence of a connection, direct influence or coordination between Czech and Russian actors. Part of the explanation lies in the fact that the event had been planned well in advance and massively publicised, but it is not a standard phenomenon and shows at least that it was a rewarding topic for Russian propaganda. In this context, it is also worth noting that the reaction of Russian media was in turn reflected by Czech quasi-media and used to support the event and Russian media as such.

vytisknout  e-mailem 

internetové stránky Policie ČR