Czech celebrities refuse to take the tabloids

11-05-2009

A celebrity cast of top Czech writers and actors has taken a high profile public stand against the practices of the Czech tabloid press. Around a dozen top names have signed a petition denouncing what they describe as the publications’ dirty practices. And they have called on counterparts in the arts world to join their star boycott.

The petition has been spearheaded by best selling Czech novelist Michal Viewegh and international actor Marek Vašut. They have been joined by 13 other personalities, including singer Bára Basiková, writer Lukáš Vaculík and actress Dagmar Havlová, wife of former president Václav Havel.

They share one thing in common: they often fill the front and inside pages of Czech tabloid papers such as Blesk and Aha and celebrity or society magazines such as Rytmus života.

The co-authors of the petition charge these publications and others with printing lies and half lies masked as truth, making up interviews and cynical use of photo montages. Their daily practice is that of unashamed journalistic hyenas, they say in a half-page advert taken out in Monday’s edition the newspaper Lidové noviny.

Viewegh and Vašut say many of the celebrities supporting the petition have gone to the courts to seek redress. But they say the courts usually take the line that the papers are acting in the public interest and celebrities can be treated like fair game.

Daniel Köppl is editor of the Czech marketing and media weekly M&M. He argues the Czech tabloids are not treated better or worse than in the rest of Europe but the population is a keen consumer of whatever they publish.

“Czech law is the same as in all of the European Union, it is no different. I do not think there is a problem in Czech law. I think there is a problem in the culture and social intelligence of the population”

Mr Köppl says many of the celebrities are happy to court the tabloids when it suits them and these close contacts could be part of the problem.

“Maybe the biggest problem in this type of magazines and newspapers is the friendship between journalism and politics and other celebrities.”

The petition signatories say theirs is a public declaration of refusal to be identified with the tabloids and counterparts who cooperate with them from their own free will or fear. And they call for others to join their stand and boycott them.

While the celebrities have no illusion they will change the way the tabloids act – they take comfort in at least in speaking out against what they denounce as the daily dirty practices which target those who have achieved something in life.

11-05-2009