Czech humor can oftentimes come across as insensitive to those unaccustomed to its nuances.
Remember this sticky encounter between the Prague mayor and a visiting British MP?
That Czech sense of toeing the line between dark humor and poor taste has been tested by no one more than the country’s leader Milos Zeman whose frequently controversial statements—deemed inappropriate by his detractors and comedy by his supporters—have repeatedly landed him in the hot seat.
The Czech president’s latest brush with scandal took place in Pilsen last week and it’s already shocking reporters and commenters worldwide.
During a televised press conference on Friday Zeman held aloft a replica AK-47 machine gun marked “for journalists.”
“Na tom samopalu je vypálený nápis ´Na novináře’. Můžete se začít postupně stahovat dozadu, protože neumím střílet.” pic.twitter.com/26nneyciAY
— Michal Kubal (@MichalKubal) October 20, 2017
Czech international correspondent Michal Kubal tweeted this pic of the president with the wooden assault rifle, noting the inscription “The Assault on Journalists.”
It wouldn’t be the first time Zeman has lashed out at the press, referring to them as “manure” and “hyenas,” as well as joking with Vladimir Putin at a May press conference in Bejing that some of the journalists present should be “liquidated,” a comment that caused an uproar throughout Central Europe and beyond.
— Andrew Stroehlein (@astroehlein) October 21, 2017
Zeman made those remarks following the release of the 2016 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders which saw the Czech Republic’s standing in the index decrease two points.
The most recent incident occurred on the eve of the country’s parliamentary elections—the following day Zeman announced that he would name ANO party leader Andrej Babis as its new prime minister.
The international press has already picked up on the assault-rifle story, wondering if the politician’s actions aren’t highly insensitive given that an investigative journalist in Malta was killed by a car bomb less than a week earlier.
What hasn’t been mentioned in the coverage is that the rifle was apparently a gift. Zeman joked to the audience,“You can gradually start retreating toward the back of the room because I can’t shoot” and added, “Don’t worry the magazine is loaded with Becherovka.”
What do you think of the Czech sense of humor and Zeman’s latest gaffe? Twisted or tame?