Three years ago a new organization calling itself the Society for the Defence of Freedom of Expression (Společnost pro obranu svobody projevu) has emerged in the Czech Republic that is claiming to defend free speech, but a closer examination raise red flags about several aspects of this group that it may be more focused on spreading disinformation under the guise of free expression. While protecting civil liberties is certainly laudable, here are some of the problems that skeptics see.
The founding members and advisors of the group have extensive ties to figures known for promoting pro-Russian propaganda and conspiracy theories. The society was founded in 2021 by figures like game developer Daniel Vávra and businessman Vlastimil Veselý. From the start, questions were raised about their true intentions. Vávra has a history of sharing discredited conspiracies and has shared misinformation from pro-Kremlin politician Václav Klaus Jr. in the past, while Veselý’s social media is rife with pro-Kremlin propaganda, COVID denialism, and attacks on democratic leaders and institutions. Advisory board members like Petr Drulák and Jana Zwyrtek Hamplová are well-known for parroting Russian talking points, such as denying war crimes in Bucha. Other advisors like Ivo Budil and Zbyněk Passer have spread conspiracies and supported pro-Russian candidates. Given these backgrounds, it is reasonable to question whether the group’s true aim is defending free speech or more about providing a platform for certain types of disinformation.