Petr Šabata has taken over as editor-in-chief of the Czech daily Právo, replacing Zdeněk Porybný, who held the post for 33 years. Porybný is a record holder among Czech editors-in-chief. He will not be leaving the company, but will focus on the Saturday supplement of the newspaper.
"I would like to thank everyone who helped me shape the character of Právo as an independent, open-minded newspaper that contributed to the positive transformation of Czech society after the fall of the old regime," Porybný wrote on Monday. "I would also like to thank my colleagues at Novinky.cz, Super.cz and Sport.cz for their hard work in the face of tough competition from online media and for making these news websites, which have been linked to the Právo newsroom from the very beginning, some of the most successful in the Czech Republic."
Zdeněk Porybný was born on 3 December 1945 in Brno. He graduated from the Prague School of Economics in 1969 and attended a postgraduate course in economic growth theory at the North-Western Polytechnic in London in 1969-1970.
In 1971, after completing his military service, he joined the editorial staff of the largest Czechoslovak daily newspaper, Rudé právo, published directly by the Czechoslovak Communist Party. From 1974 to 1980 he was correspondent in France. On his return, he headed the newspaper's foreign affairs department and was a member of the Czechoslovak Union of Journalists. In 1984 he was awarded a state medal.
From September 1985 to August 1989 he was a correspondent for Rudé právo from Washington.
In September 1989, just two months before the Velvet Revolution, the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia appointed him deputy editor-in-chief of Rudé právo. After the Velvet Revolution, he was appointed to run the paper from mid-December, and a month later the editorial board elected him editor-in-chief.
At that time, Rudé právo had the largest circulation and the most modern equipment of all state-owned newspapers. Its new building with a modern printing press was opened in June 1989.
After the Velvet Revolution, there was public pressure to quickly abolish the Communist Party's information monopoly. This led to confusing transfers of originally state-owned assets to newly established companies, which operated with the same people in the same buildings, but outside the reach of state structures.
At the beginning of February 1990, the Communist Party established an autonomous state publishing house, Vydavatelství Rudé Právo. Zdeněk Porybný became its director. On 4 October 1990 he founded the private joint-stock company Borgis with its registered office at the same address.
In December 1990, he signed a contract with the state publishing house for the temporary use of property, including cars, computers and printing machines, for a period of ten years. Michal Rižák, who, like Porybný, worked in Borgis, signed the contract on behalf of the state publishing house.
Since the contract was formally a lease and not a transfer of ownership, it was not affected by the moratorium on state property in May 1990. In December 1990, the employees of the state publishing house resigned en masse and became employees and shareholders of Borgis.
From January 1991, the daily was published under the same name, but with a private publisher and the subtitle "independent left-wing newspaper". All commercial, advertising and subscription income was already being collected by the new company, and the state publishing house had no staff or income.
In March 1992, the police charged and arrested Zdeněk Porybný for an unclear transfer of property. After paying a bail of half a million crowns, he was released and prosecuted at liberty. At the beginning of October 1992, the prosecution for fraud and property manipulation was dropped.
Rudé právo gradually changed its graphic design and reduced the word "Rudé" on the front page. Since 18 September 1995, the daily has been published under the name Právo.
Since 2001, Borgis has operated its online news server FlashNews. In January 2003, the company agreed to cooperate with the largest Czech Internet company, Seznam.cz, and a joint news website, Novinky.cz, was created.
Novinky.cz became one of the most visited Czech websites thanks to the support of Seznam.cz. Other joint projects included the sports website Sport.cz and the tabloid website Super.cz. After ten years of cooperation, Seznam.cz bought a one-third stake in the Borgis publishing house from Zdeněk Porybný. Since June 2023, Seznam.cz has been the majority owner of the publishing house with a 93% stake.
"This is a logical culmination of twenty years of mutual cooperation between Borgis and Seznam," commented Pavel Zima, member of the board of directors of Seznam.cz. "We agreed with Borgis owner Zdeněk Porybný to increase our stake in 2013."
"I am pleased that we have an owner who guarantees that the editorial team will continue to enjoy full independence," said Zdeněk Porybný. "For the employees and readers of Právo, this is welcome news, as the connection with the Czech internet leader gives us the certainty that the newspaper will successfully navigate these turbulent times without losing the quality of its content."
The circulation of the daily Právo has been declining for a long time, as is the case with the vast majority of print media. In April 2023, the average daily circulation was 45,556 copies.