Data and society

character assassinations? settle for more

Datalyrics replies to the defamation of non-profit's esteemed partners by the Chief editor of Lidové noviny, once a samizdat newspaper today practically owned by Czech PM Andrej Babiš

Photo Melissa Blackall / EJSCE
Oct 22nd 2020
David Růžička
<h3>context</h3><ul><li>Ironically, István Léko, the author of the defamation, belongs among the most educated journalists in the country and has reputation for unusual journalistic instincts.</li><li>He previously served as the <a href="https://www.respekt.cz/tydenik/2004/17/nasi-oligarchove?issueId=784" target="_blank">Chief editor</a> of <em>Euro</em>, an economical weekly financed by the PPF financial group, and <em>Česká pozice</em>, a webzine to which the later Prime Minister Andrej Babiš had been donating €700,000 annually.</li></ul><p><img src="/img/articles/images/JbOavRtCISbTMTrjgC70I3zDaQUimoxpqjK0SRIw.png" width="250" style="display: inline; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 1em 1em;"></p><ul><li>Mr Léko became the Chief editor of <em>Lidové noviny</em> after Mr Babiš acquired it. The last wave of resignations by respected journalists, in 2018, was triggered by the revelation of lacking distance between the two men. Mr Léko published a letter written by the head of “International Children’s Cross”, an unknown entity. The letter supported Prime Minister Babiš’ refusal to accept 50 young Syrian refugees. Later, it became known the organization may not even exist and that Mr Léko received the letter from Babiš’ associate. Mr Léko did not found any wrongdoing.</li><li>Mr Babiš, who is a personal friend to Mr Orbán, and Mr Léko both have Hungarian parentage. Mr Léko is an influential advocate of the contemporary Hungarian ruling party and likes to gesture to the zeal of "left-liberal mainstream".</li><li>Tomáš Němeček, a former pre-eminent journalist and lawyer, <a href="https://domaci.ihned.cz/c1-66263770-babisuv-leko-sefredaktor-lidovych-novin-se-nedokazal-ubranit-tlaku-premiera" target="_blank">stated</a>: “Some of his columns lead me to conclude that he may be convinced about the dominant role of a backstage elite and, for instance, that he perceives the secret service as a device of someone’s political power. Together with Babiš, he came to fight against this non-defined elite from the position of the Chief editor [of <em>Lidové noviny</em>]".</li><li>Albeit the following reply is no longer available at LN online, the Chief editor deserves respect for having published its version freely in the print newspaper. Although published on a day when the paper sells one third less of copies, in any of the Hungarian pro-government periodicals, this could hardly happen today.</li></ul><h3>reply of David Růžička, Founding Editor of Datalyrics</h3><p>In the past weeks, you may have followed here [in <em>Lidové noviny</em>] a quarrel about the state of the Hungarian media between the Chief editor (<em>When will Brussels praise Hungary? / Kdy Brusel pochválí Maďarsko?</em> LN 2. 10. 2020) and me (<em>We all want free media, do we / </em><a href="https://datalyrics.org/cs/svobodna-media-chceme-vsichni-skoro" target="_blank"><em>Svobodná média chceme všichni, skoro</em></a>, LN 8. 10.). I am under the impression that the rug of quasi-conspiratorial defamation which the Chief editor unrolled in his last contribution to this debate (<em>Grounbreakers / Poklepávači</em>, LN 16. 10.) represents a new milestone for the daily. The Chief editor deserves respect for allowing you to read my reply.</p><p>Firstly, I apologise for the mistake in the name of no-longer-existing Hungarian daily <em>Népszabadság</em>. I should probably also apologise for the proof-reader of <em>Lidové noviny</em> who has overlooked it. It is worth a thought that a frontal attack on diacritic was the only answer of the Chief editor of a newspaper with a centennial history to the actual content of my commentary, which was based on three years of our work.</p><p>The Chief editor unwittingly allowed his readers to get a taste of a light version of propaganda that the consumers of Hungarian pro-government media consume daily.</p><p>This includes double standards: the Chief editor says that if <em>Datalyrics</em> has some partners, it must automatically be some outlet of alacrity. If <em>Lidové noviny</em> are owned de facto by the Prime Minister, does it mean that every article you read here [in <em>Lidové noviny</em>] must be tributary? It does not. Articles are such and such.</p><p>If we create an environment in which ‘anything anyone connected anyhow with Bakala, Sekyra or Soros says, is a lie’, we prevent ourselves from leading a substantive debate about our common future.</p><h3>how much is a good article</h3><p>The Chief editor was captivated by us calling Datalyrics an “investigative boutique”. What does it mean? It means that we try to bring readers the world’s best academic research, translated in the human language, in the most succint manner possible. A two-page article costs us €8,000 in the direct costs and lost earnings.</p><p>That is about ten times the market cost of such an article in the world-leading media and a hundred times more than in the Czech media. If I knew these numbers five years ago, I would not bustle in “boutique” journalism. But I am unreservedly proud that the pre-eminent Czech entrepreneur and benefactor Sekyra paid us the amount of one such article. Regardless of the fact that a Sekyra will not save Datalyrics, nor Czech investigative journalism.</p><h3>Sekyra and Soros</h3><p>Mr Léko insinuates that Mr Sekyra may have been connected with a murder, that he is a puppetmaster of Czech Christian Democrats and that, as a billionaire, he must „purchase legitimacy“ by meddling with prominent intellectuals. Moreover, Mr Léko lives in a fantasy suggesting that Sekyra’s colleagues cannot confront him with critical questions.</p><p>If this were so, it would contradict everything Sekyra stands for and I knew damn well whose money I am taking.</p><p>In business, there are no moral absolutes and there are a few people in this country who have subjected this reality to more scrutiny and reflection than Sekyra. This way, he became an entrepreneur who is willing to sacrifice a portion of profit to cultivate the public space such as in Prague’s Smíchov. If he is criticized for not contributing to higher accessibility of housing, his critics should see him as a man who is interested in this matter without any ulterior motives.</p><div class="quote-right">If we create an environment in which ‘anything anyone connected anyhow with Sekyra or Soros says, is a lie’, we prevent ourselves from leading a substantive debate about our common future.</div><p>He sponsored the Czech Christian Democrats transparently after the party dropped out of the parliament because he believes that, for traditional reasons, they should be part of the regional political life.</p><p>More than the mythic political operative, he is an extraordinarily curious nerd. It is not only because of his money but also thanks to his head that the world’s pre-eminent academics are finally again coming to Czechia, like during the quasi-legal <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Velvet-Philosophers-Barbara-Day/dp/1870626427" target="_blank">seminars</a> in the 1980s. Still to communist Czechoslovakia, Michael Rosen came from Oxford. This time, he <a href="https://cspf.ff.cuni.cz/en/2018/02/07/michael-rosen-harvard-university-lecture-in-prague/" target="_blank">arrived</a> from Harvard.</p><p><em>Lidové noviny</em> hail from the same samizdat tradition. Its one-time contributors <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji%C5%99ina_%C5%A0iklov%C3%A1" target="_blank">Jiřina Šiklová</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom%C3%A1%C5%A1_Hal%C3%ADk" target="_blank">Tomáš Halík</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_%C5%BDantovsk%C3%BD" target="_blank">Michael Žantovský</a> are active in the Sekyra Foundation.</p><p>And as it happens, the same tradition had engendered the Soros university, founded by the mythic “global sponsor of progressists”. That best-ranked university in Hungary which had been pushed out to a makeshift campus in Vienna. And not simply because of the amendment that the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg recently ruled had been contrary to law. Mostly because by having created the monster of traitorous “Soros”, Mr Orbán locked himself in a position from which he could not fall back, even once the Soros university jumped through all the hoops Mr Orbán put before it by the calculated amendment. Had he done anything different, he would have lost his face in front of voters.</p><p>This is the impact of propaganda on legal predictability. Similar interdependencies that will be affecting our freedoms, too, already exist in a great number. The <a href="https://www.ceu.edu/" target="_blank">Central European University</a> will drown, by Datalyrics’ rough estimate, €230M in the course of five years as a result. A part of it in the acclaimed renovation of the Budapest campus that the university ventured into, after Orbán’s government confirmed in writing that it wants the university to stay in Hungary. Three years before it started to bully the university.</p><p>This is the world of the arbitrariness of an autocratic government and malicious state interference that the Chief editor of this newspaper [<em>Lidové noviny</em>] is a naïve fan of. The readers would do well, instead of listening to him, to check if Sekyra and Soros might not have something to say, after all.</p>
<h3>context</h3><ul><li>Ironically, István Léko, the author of the defamation, belongs among the most educated journalists in the country and has reputation for unusual journalistic instincts.</li><li>He previously served as the <a href="https://www.respekt.cz/tydenik/2004/17/nasi-oligarchove?issueId=784" target="_blank">Chief editor</a> of <em>Euro</em>, an economical weekly financed by the PPF financial group, and <em>Česká pozice</em>, a webzine to which the later Prime Minister Andrej Babiš had been donating €700,000 annually.</li></ul><p><img src="/img/articles/images/JbOavRtCISbTMTrjgC70I3zDaQUimoxpqjK0SRIw.png" width="250" style="display: inline; float: right; margin: 0px 0px 1em 1em;"></p><ul><li>Mr Léko became the Chief editor of <em>Lidové noviny</em> after Mr Babiš acquired it. The last wave of resignations by respected journalists, in 2018, was triggered by the revelation of lacking distance between the two men. Mr Léko published a letter written by the head of “International Children’s Cross”, an unknown entity. The letter supported Prime Minister Babiš’ refusal to accept 50 young Syrian refugees. Later, it became known the organization may not even exist and that Mr Léko received the letter from Babiš’ associate. Mr Léko did not found any wrongdoing.</li><li>Mr Babiš, who is a personal friend to Mr Orbán, and Mr Léko both have Hungarian parentage. Mr Léko is an influential advocate of the contemporary Hungarian ruling party and likes to gesture to the zeal of "left-liberal mainstream".</li><li>Tomáš Němeček, a former pre-eminent journalist and lawyer, <a href="https://domaci.ihned.cz/c1-66263770-babisuv-leko-sefredaktor-lidovych-novin-se-nedokazal-ubranit-tlaku-premiera" target="_blank">stated</a>: “Some of his columns lead me to conclude that he may be convinced about the dominant role of a backstage elite and, for instance, that he perceives the secret service as a device of someone’s political power. Together with Babiš, he came to fight against this non-defined elite from the position of the Chief editor [of <em>Lidové noviny</em>]".</li><li>Albeit the following reply is no longer available at LN online, the Chief editor deserves respect for having published its version freely in the print newspaper. Although published on a day when the paper sells one third less of copies, in any of the Hungarian pro-government periodicals, this could hardly happen today.</li></ul><h3>reply of David Růžička, Founding Editor of Datalyrics</h3><p>In the past weeks, you may have followed here [in <em>Lidové noviny</em>] a quarrel about the state of the Hungarian media between the Chief editor (<em>When will Brussels praise Hungary? / Kdy Brusel pochválí Maďarsko?</em> LN 2. 10. 2020) and me (<em>We all want free media, do we / </em><a href="https://datalyrics.org/cs/svobodna-media-chceme-vsichni-skoro" target="_blank"><em>Svobodná média chceme všichni, skoro</em></a>, LN 8. 10.). I am under the impression that the rug of quasi-conspiratorial defamation which the Chief editor unrolled in his last contribution to this debate (<em>Grounbreakers / Poklepávači</em>, LN 16. 10.) represents a new milestone for the daily. The Chief editor deserves respect for allowing you to read my reply.</p><p>Firstly, I apologise for the mistake in the name of no-longer-existing Hungarian daily <em>Népszabadság</em>. I should probably also apologise for the proof-reader of <em>Lidové noviny</em> who has overlooked it. It is worth a thought that a frontal attack on diacritic was the only answer of the Chief editor of a newspaper with a centennial history to the actual content of my commentary, which was based on three years of our work.</p><p>The Chief editor unwittingly allowed his readers to get a taste of a light version of propaganda that the consumers of Hungarian pro-government media consume daily.</p><p>This includes double standards: the Chief editor says that if <em>Datalyrics</em> has some partners, it must automatically be some outlet of alacrity. If <em>Lidové noviny</em> are owned de facto by the Prime Minister, does it mean that every article you read here [in <em>Lidové noviny</em>] must be tributary? It does not. Articles are such and such.</p><p>If we create an environment in which ‘anything anyone connected anyhow with Bakala, Sekyra or Soros says, is a lie’, we prevent ourselves from leading a substantive debate about our common future.</p><h3>how much is a good article</h3><p>The Chief editor was captivated by us calling Datalyrics an “investigative boutique”. What does it mean? It means that we try to bring readers the world’s best academic research, translated in the human language, in the most succint manner possible. A two-page article costs us €8,000 in the direct costs and lost earnings.</p><p>That is about ten times the market cost of such an article in the world-leading media and a hundred times more than in the Czech media. If I knew these numbers five years ago, I would not bustle in “boutique” journalism. But I am unreservedly proud that the pre-eminent Czech entrepreneur and benefactor Sekyra paid us the amount of one such article. Regardless of the fact that a Sekyra will not save Datalyrics, nor Czech investigative journalism.</p><h3>Sekyra and Soros</h3><p>Mr Léko insinuates that Mr Sekyra may have been connected with a murder, that he is a puppetmaster of Czech Christian Democrats and that, as a billionaire, he must „purchase legitimacy“ by meddling with prominent intellectuals. Moreover, Mr Léko lives in a fantasy suggesting that Sekyra’s colleagues cannot confront him with critical questions.</p><p>If this were so, it would contradict everything Sekyra stands for and I knew damn well whose money I am taking.</p><p>In business, there are no moral absolutes and there are a few people in this country who have subjected this reality to more scrutiny and reflection than Sekyra. This way, he became an entrepreneur who is willing to sacrifice a portion of profit to cultivate the public space such as in Prague’s Smíchov. If he is criticized for not contributing to higher accessibility of housing, his critics should see him as a man who is interested in this matter without any ulterior motives.</p><div class="quote-right">If we create an environment in which ‘anything anyone connected anyhow with Sekyra or Soros says, is a lie’, we prevent ourselves from leading a substantive debate about our common future.</div><p>He sponsored the Czech Christian Democrats transparently after the party dropped out of the parliament because he believes that, for traditional reasons, they should be part of the regional political life.</p><p>More than the mythic political operative, he is an extraordinarily curious nerd. It is not only because of his money but also thanks to his head that the world’s pre-eminent academics are finally again coming to Czechia, like during the quasi-legal <a href="https://www.amazon.com/Velvet-Philosophers-Barbara-Day/dp/1870626427" target="_blank">seminars</a> in the 1980s. Still to communist Czechoslovakia, Michael Rosen came from Oxford. This time, he <a href="https://cspf.ff.cuni.cz/en/2018/02/07/michael-rosen-harvard-university-lecture-in-prague/" target="_blank">arrived</a> from Harvard.</p><p><em>Lidové noviny</em> hail from the same samizdat tradition. Its one-time contributors <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ji%C5%99ina_%C5%A0iklov%C3%A1" target="_blank">Jiřina Šiklová</a>, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom%C3%A1%C5%A1_Hal%C3%ADk" target="_blank">Tomáš Halík</a> and <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_%C5%BDantovsk%C3%BD" target="_blank">Michael Žantovský</a> are active in the Sekyra Foundation.</p><p>And as it happens, the same tradition had engendered the Soros university, founded by the mythic “global sponsor of progressists”. That best-ranked university in Hungary which had been pushed out to a makeshift campus in Vienna. And not simply because of the amendment that the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg recently ruled had been contrary to law. Mostly because by having created the monster of traitorous “Soros”, Mr Orbán locked himself in a position from which he could not fall back, even once the Soros university jumped through all the hoops Mr Orbán put before it by the calculated amendment. Had he done anything different, he would have lost his face in front of voters.</p><p>This is the impact of propaganda on legal predictability. Similar interdependencies that will be affecting our freedoms, too, already exist in a great number. The <a href="https://www.ceu.edu/" target="_blank">Central European University</a> will drown, by Datalyrics’ rough estimate, €230M in the course of five years as a result. A part of it in the acclaimed renovation of the Budapest campus that the university ventured into, after Orbán’s government confirmed in writing that it wants the university to stay in Hungary. Three years before it started to bully the university.</p><p>This is the world of the arbitrariness of an autocratic government and malicious state interference that the Chief editor of this newspaper [<em>Lidové noviny</em>] is a naïve fan of. The readers would do well, instead of listening to him, to check if Sekyra and Soros might not have something to say, after all.</p>
Articles by Datalyrics were published in