Czech Republic: Babiš sells his media
Czech opposition leader and former prime minister Andrej Babiš is withdrawing from the media industry. His Agrofert holding company will sell the Mafra media group, which publishes the newspapers Mladá fronta Dnes and Lidové noviny, to the investment group Kaprain, owned by multimillionaire Karel Pražák. With this move Babiš is also reacting to a recent tightening of the law against politicians having conflicts of interest. Commentators look behind the scenes.
He has long been his own medium
Echo24, which was founded by journalists who didn’t want to work under Babiš, comments:
“The takeover of the Mafra publishing house ten years ago was the most significant move for Babiš’s political career. Back then, the big traditional media groups were still influential. They set the agenda, they could shake up a government for misconduct, and Mafra was the best at doing that. The acquisition paved his way to power. ... The sum for which he is selling the publisher significantly exceeds the original investment. Andrej Babiš has made money, he remains in politics. And he has parted with his media because he has realised that he himself has become a sufficiently powerful medium and the institutional media are a nuisance to him.”
The end of a conflict of interests
Respekt explains the background to the sale:
“Due to a new law that bans politicians from owning media, Andrej Babiš had to get rid of MF Dnes, Lidové noviny and Rádio Impuls, as well as other titles. This is a good thing because despite their dwindling influence Babiš was very much courted by his media — both directly through supportive texts and indirectly through a lack of investigative journalism. ... Babiš destroyed these once honourable newspaper titles to the detriment of society as a whole.”