Photo: TASR

During the socialist era, media were free and presented the world as it was

Facts and disproval of the myth ↓

The socialist regime existed also thanks to long-term, systematic, and thorough propaganda that no one could escape. In creating that illusionary world, the fragments of which still remain in minds of people, media became the crooked mirror. The freedom of speech was, similarly like other human rights during the socialist era, only a formal piece of paper. Following the society´s interests, there was only one category of truth in the communist world – the truth of totalitarian power and rulers. The attitude towards the freedom of speech resulted from the very nature of the Marxism-Leninism ideology. It did not permit any freedom of the press. The function of the media was defined by Lenin´s classical triad – propaganda, organization, and agitation.

During the years 1948 through 1989, the freedom of speech was systematically suppressed in Czechoslovakia and the media were used by the ruling communist party as a propaganda tool. The party was the biggest press publisher and the centralised state administration strictly controlled all the media and censored all their outputs. The regime´s aim was to make the media a tool supporting an increase in the acceptance by people of the communist party´s policy and ideology. The media were to reason and justify the practical steps taken by the political power actors and present all their measures as the only possible and correct. Although the methods how to achieve that were changing, the attitude of the regime towards the freedom of speech remained the same throughout that period. 

The regime created legislative preconditions for taking control over the media. By virtue of law it nationalized the media – Act No 123/1948 on nationalization of publishing enterprises and Act No 137/1948 on nationalisation of the Czechoslovak Radio. Press Act No 184/1950 declared that “the mission of the press is to support the development efforts of the Czechoslovak people and their fight for peace and to cooperate within education of people towards socialism”. Other important legislative preconditions for taking control over the media and propaganda dissemination included the laws adopted in the sixties. In 1964, separate laws about the Czechoslovak Radio – Act No 17/1964 and Act No 18/1964 on Czechoslovak Television were adopted. New Act No 81/1966 on the press explicitly defined the manner of control over the media and censoring.

Other preconditions included staff purges and posting of loyal people within the media. Other censoring institutions complemented the hermetically closed area and participated in the control and management of the media – Czechoslovak Book Culture Centre and the secret service (ŠtB) itself that was commissioned with censoring of correspondence and printed materials sent via post from abroad (more in chapter 1.6 Media).