Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the Czech Republic's President Milos Zeman to apologise after he made a joke about journalists being murdered, alluding to journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s death at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

Czech President Milos Zeman arrives for a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018.
Czech President Milos Zeman arrives for a meeting with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the Bellevue Palace in Berlin, Germany, Friday, Sept. 21, 2018. (AP Archive)

Czech President Milos Zeman has fuelled criticism with his latest remarks about journalists during a speech.

“I love journalists, that’s why I may organise a special banquet for them this evening at the Saudi embassy,” Zeman said, referring to Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s death at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. 

People took to social media to express their discomfort over the incident. 

“Václav Havel rolling over in his grave and shaking his head in disbelief,” wrote one user, referring to the statesman, writer and last president of Czechoslovakia.

Czech President Miloš Zeman is starting to test out Khashoggi death jokes in front of audiences. “I love journalists, that’s why I may organize a special banquet for them this evening at the Saudi embassy”

Posted by Jeffrey St Clair on Sunday, October 28, 2018

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) also condemned Zeman’s remarks saying “Zeman has a long history of bad jokes at the expense of journalists.”

Pauline Adès-Mével, the head of RSF’s EU-Balkans desk said: “It is sickening to see him take his cynicism to this level. He must apologise to the journalistic community and stop these nauseating jibes.” 

This is not the first time Zeman, a President Trump admirer, has shown hostility toward journalists. Speaking at a news conference in 2017, he ‘welcomed’ journalists holding a mock assault rifle with an inscription which read “toward journalists”.  

In May, he was speaking with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin when the microphone caught him saying that journalists should be "liquidated" as there are “too many” of them.

In June 2017, he abruptly called a news conference where he set a huge pair of red underpants on fire saying: "I apologise to the journalists whose intelligence I tested, unsuccessfully as always.

"The time of underwear in politics is over," Zeman added. "I'm sorry to make you look like little idiots, you really don't deserve it," he told reporters before leaving in his car.

Czech President Milos Zeman (red tie) looks on as firefighters burn the oversized underwear.
Czech President Milos Zeman (red tie) looks on as firefighters burn the oversized underwear. (AFP Archive)

Criticising the Roma

Just recently, President Milos Zeman refused to back down from comments slamming what he called a 90 percent unemployment rate among the country's Roma, earning a rebuke from campaigners and rights activists.

His latest spat with one of the few minorities in the European Union member country began when he said that although he despised the former communist regime, at least it made the Roma people work.

His remarks sparked criticism, including from Roma people posting hundreds of pictures of themselves working on social media and asking the president to apologise. He declined, saying that those images were of the one tenth of Roma who actually work.

"I said clearly that I appreciate the 10 percent of Roma who work," Zeman said in a live interview when responding to a question from a Roma viewer.

Romea news website shared a video of people who shared their photos while at work.

We are receiving hundreds and hundreds of photographs and videos from Romani people at work - and so many more are...

Posted by ROMEA on Sunday, October 7, 2018

Critics have voiced concern about Prime Minister Andrej Babis, one of Czech Republic's richest men, owning two of the biggest newspapers in the country, Lidove noviny and MF Dnes.

The RSF said media freedom in the Czech Republic "is under threat" and according to their global ranking of press freedom report for 2018, the country has slipped eleven positions to place 34.

The Czech Republic marked 100 years since the creation of Czechoslovakia on October 28 with the biggest military parade in its post-communist history, highlighting a weekend of celebrations.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies