Credit: Freepik

Over 40% of Czechs Consider Information War To Be An Excuse for Censorship

Four out of ten Czechs think the much-discussed information war is an excuse for Western governments to restrict freedom of speech, according to a survey carried out in the Visegrad Group (V4) countries by the Central European Digital Media Observatory (CEDMO), based at Charles University in Prague.

The survey found that more people believe this in the Czech Republic and Hungary than in Slovakia and Poland. In both the Czech Republic and Hungary, 41% of respondents agreed with the statement that the information war was just an excuse to restrict freedom of speech. In Slovakia, 35% of respondents held this view, and in Poland 24%.

At the same time, 39% of Czechs believe that their country is an arena for Russia’s information war against Western countries. In Hungary, this opinion is held by about a third of the population. In Slovakia and Poland, on the other hand, more people than in the Czech Republic believe that Russia is waging an information war against Western countries, 42% in Slovakia and 55% in Poland.

One of the questions in the sociological survey asked how easy or difficult it was for citizens to determine the truthfulness of news on specific topics ahead of the upcoming elections to the European Parliament. Poles showed the greatest confidence in their ability to identify the truthfulness of information across all topics surveyed, with the exception of COVID-19. Hungarians, on the other hand, found it most difficult to determine the truthfulness of information, especially those about COVID-19 and developments on the domestic political scene.

Almost half of the Czech population (49%) found it most difficult to distinguish between true and false information about the European Commission’s (EC) policy on the future of the automotive industry, such as the ban on internal combustion engines. Information about the war in Ukraine followed by one percentage point, and 47% of respondents identified the truthfulness of news about the energy crisis, including price changes, as problematic to determine.

In each of the four Central European countries, approximately 1,000 respondents between 18 and 65 took part in the survey in late March and early April. Data collection was carried out by Ipsos in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, and by Instytut Badan Pollster in Poland.

According to the reports of the CEDMO consortium’s information checkers, in the first five months of this year, topics related to domestic politics started increasing among false narratives in the Central European online information space. The frequency of articles focusing on this topic has been gradually increasing as the European elections approach. In the case of Slovakia, the attack on Prime Minister Robert Fico also had an impact on the increase.

The second most frequent topic of false narratives was the war in Ukraine, which dominated the disinformation news at the end of 2023.

According to Petr Gongala of the platform, a member of the CEDMO consortium, fake news related to the EU, the migration pact and measures introduced as part of the European Green Deal were among the news captured in the Czech Republic between January and May.

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