Daily news summary

Senator Fischer to file criminal complaint over PR agency’s promotion of China

The chairman of the Senate’s Security Committee, Pavel Fischer, is to file a criminal complaint over the pro-Chinese activities of a PR agency hired by the loans company Home Credit. Mr. Fischer made the announcement on Tuesday, saying the police should investigate whether a crime had been committed.

Last week it was reported that Home Credit, which is owned by the richest Czech Petr Kellner, had hired the PR agency C&B to improve the image of China in the Czech Republic and had attempted to influence the country’s media and politics. The news site Aktuálně.cz, which broke the story, said Pavel Fischer himself had been the subject of some kind of monitoring in connection with the matter.

Home Credit, which does a lot of business in China, denies any wrongdoing and says the PR agency was providing it with normal services.

Lower house committee demands EU audit concerning Babiš from ministries

The Inspection Committee of the Czech lower house has asked the ministries of regional development and agriculture to supply it with translations of European Commission audits relating to Prime Minister Andrej Babiš’s alleged conflict of interest. The as yet unpublished documents reportedly accuse Mr. Babiš of remaining in control of the company Agrofert despite having placed it in trust funds. However, the PM says he has complied with both Czech and European law.

The lower house committee has called on the ministries to hand the audits over without delay.

Sirens sound nationwide Tuesday for Ostrava hospital shooting victims

Sirens sounded at noon on Tuesday throughout the Czech Republic for two minutes and 20 seconds in memory of seven people killed at the University Hospital in Ostrava.

The victims were shot indiscriminately a week ago in an outpatient clinic waiting room. Among them was a man who shielded his 12-year-old daughter from harm with his body.

More than 2.6 million crowns have been collected thus far for the families of those killed. Donations will be accepted until 31 March 2020, when the money will be turned over to the bereaved.

The 42-year-old shooter, who believed he was seriously ill and was not getting adequate treatment, fled the scene. He killed himself in his car as police closed in.

Ombudswoman: Vast majority of Czech train stations not wheelchair accessible

Only a fifth of the Czech Republic’s railway stations and stops are at least partly wheelchair accessible, the country’s ombudswoman, Anna Šabatová, says. Speaking at a news conference, she said there was no legal mechanism for forcing transport companies to make their services more suitable for wheelchair users.

Ms. Šabatová told reporters that the only legislation in this area rules that all train wagons produced after 2008 must be wheelchair accessible.

Organiser of Battle of Austerlitz reconstructions gets top French honour

The organiser of an annual reconstruction of the Battle of Austerlitz, Miroslav Jandora, has been awarded France’s National Order of Merit by President Emmanuel Macron, Novinky.cz reported.

The event brings thousands of spectators to Slavkov near Brno, where the famous battle took place in 1805, every year. Also known as the Battle of Three Emperors, it is regarded as one Napoleon’s greatest military successes.

City Hall to cease funding for Prague Writers’ Festival

The authorities in the Czech capital will no longer provide funding to the Prague Writers’ Festival, the news site Aktuálně.cz reported. The literary event, which should take place for the 30th time in 2020, was not included in a list of organisations set to receive grants from the City of Prague next year.

A commission looking at funding applications said that the Prague Writers’ Festival did not have resonance in the media or among the public commensurate to the amount it received. In the past the city’s authorities contributed millions to the festival every year but the figure fell to around CZK 1 million annually.

Czech film The Painted Bird makes Oscars shortlist

Czech film director Václav Marhoul’s epic The Painted Bird has made the Oscars shortlist for Best International Feature Film. Ninety-one films were eligible in the category, and 10 will advance to the next round of voting.

Marhoul’s three-hour-long, black-and-white film is based on the 1965 novel by Polish-born author Jerzy Kosiński about a dark-skinned boy subject to all manner of abuse during WWII.

The Painted Bird was the first Czech film in competition at the Venice International Film Festival in a quarter century. It has also been nominated by the International Press Academy for a Satellite Award.

The other shortlisted films in the international feature category are Truth and Justice (Estonia), Les Misérables (France), Those Who Remained (Hungary), Honeyland (North Macedonia), Corpus Christi (Poland), Beanpole (Russia), Atlantics (Senegal), Parasite (South Korea), and Pain and Glory (Spain).

In the animated short film category, a film by Daria Kashcheeva, a student of Prague's FAMU born in Tajikistan, was also shortlisted. The Oscar nominations themselves, five in each category, will be announced on 13 January.

Weather forecast

It should be overcast in the Czech Republic on Wednesday, with temperatures of up to 10 degrees Celsius. Similar weather is due until the weekend, when daytime highs are likely to drop slightly.