President signs Babiš law

Jan Handrejch

President Petr Pavel has signed a law that will make it stricter for top politicians to own media companies and accept subsidies and incentives. The ban on media ownership is part of an amendment to the law on political parties. The change applies to real owners, not controlling individuals, to prevent the ban from being bypassed.

The law also targets government members who ban accepting subsidies and investment incentives. The law is aimed at ANO leader Andrej Babiš who, after the provision banning media ownership and receiving grants and investment incentives came into effect in 2017, placed the shares of his companies Agrofert and SynBiol into trust funds. The Agrofert group includes Mafra, one of the largest media houses in the Czech Republic.

The Chamber of Deputies approved the law in the middle of June after obstruction by the ANO party. It will take effect from next year.

President Pavel has requested an amendment to the law as he was only partially included in it. “The law requires me to submit the mentioned notification, but it does not specify how and when I should do so,” he reminded, adding that according to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Administrative Court, this cannot be bypassed by interpreting the law.

This move has been seen as a retaliation against Babiš and his media empire. ANO and SPD have blocked the Chamber of Deputies in response to this.