The Czech Foreign Ministry has denied accreditation to two Russian journalists in Prague, eliciting an angry response from Moscow, which accused the Czech authorities of violating the right to freedom of expression. The Russian Foreign Ministry has summoned the Czech ambassador for an explanation.
The Czech Foreign Ministry’s decision not to grant accreditation to two Russian journalists has elicited an official protest from Moscow which threatened retaliatory measures and outrage in the media outlets for which the two journalists work. The state agency RIA Novosti says the decision is ungrounded and has left the journalists no means by which to defend themselves.
I asked Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Michaela Lagronová what she could tell me about the case.
“Unfortunately, the reasons that led to this denial are classified, according to our laws. But I can tell you that we get hundreds of applications every year and most of them are granted. But in these two cases they were denied – which is rare. Unfortunately, I cannot give you any more details.”
What does that mean for them in practice?
“In practice it means that they cannot attend certain events and press conferences by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs but it does not apply for other institutions. So for example, if there is any event or press conference organized by the Office of the Government or the President’s Office they have their own accreditation rules so it depends on these institutions whether these people will be allowed to attend or not.”
The Russian media say you have not given reasons for the decision, I assume you will be giving an explanation to Moscow.
“Yes, we will be giving an explanation to Moscow. but through diplomatic channels, not through the media.”
Alexander Kuranov is a freelancer for the state agency RIA Novosti and state television Rossiya Segodnya. He has lived in the Czech Republic since the late 1980s. He was denied accreditation previously, continued to work in the country and had recently made a second request for accreditation. The other journalist is reportedly Vladimir Snegirjev a correspondent for Vechernaya Moskva.
According to the Czech weekly Respekt the two present a security threat to the country and their accreditation was denied at the request of the Czech intelligence services.
Former intelligence service head Andor Šandor says that although the practice of expelling diplomats and denying journalists accreditations is not uncommon, this case is hard to read because neither of the two journalists is being expelled from the country and they can continue to work here.
“If they are suspected of working for the Russian intelligence services then the fact that they are being allowed to stay on the territory of the Czech Republic will not make their job more difficult. The fact that they cannot go to government briefings will not hurt them too much because there is no secret information released at these briefings and they can all be found on the Internet, so that decision, to me at least, is a bit difficult to read. If they are spies they should not be allowed to stay on our territory –if they are not, then the fact that they were denied accreditation is incomprehensible.”
By Daniela Lazarová, Radio Prague