Philippe Riboton

SAY THE NAME Vladimír Železný and you will notice an interesting phenomenon: people talk a lot about him in private, but when it comes to making a public statement, you will only hear the buzz of a fly. CEO’s of companies that number among the biggest advertisers on TV Nova don’t refrain from complaining about the man’s conduct or his organization’s practice. Yet not a single one of them will withdraw its advertising budget from his TV station, since they are afraid to leave the entire commercial airtime to their competitors. Politicians never miss the chance to compare him to some villain, but they still queue up to appear on his evening news programs, or jump at the chance to make some shady deal in corridors where microphones and cameras can’t access. Journalists love to denounce his autocratic behavior, but none of them will agree to speak on the record when interviewed about the “Iron Man”. These few examples illustrate the presence and power of this exceptional man, who is feared as much as he is admired. People admire his extraordinary talent for speaking, demonstrating, convincing and – ultimately – just being Vladimír Železný. Women are seduced by his charm, his permanent tan, his gray hair and his elegantly tailored suits. Men are attracted by his power, his entourage of bodyguards, his outrageous wealth and the impression he gives of being unbreakable. In the end they both vote the same way, as is so strongly evidenced by Železný’s first-round victory in the recent senatorial elections. In this month’s cover story, The Prague Tribune goes beyond the typical controversy found on the front page of newspapers; we try to create a tableau of the many faces and different lives of the man. Although he was given plenty of time and opportunities, Mr. Železný chose not to respond directly to our questions – which isn’t such a bad thing. It leaves our readers with the freedom to make up their own opinion about one of the most emblematic characters in contemporary Czech society.

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