News Friday, JANUARY 05th, 2001

By Libor Kubik

Parliament fails to pass resolution on Czech TV

Parliamentary media and cultural committees have failed pass a resolution on solving the crisis that has crippled Czech Public Television for over two weeks now.

Their lack of agreement is a bad omen for the success of the full house meeting, scheduled later today.

Members of parliament for the opposition Four Party Coalition have sponsored a move to oust the station's new boss. In contrast, the main-opposition Civic Democrats backed a resolution saying the television is not fulfilling its public service mission because of illegal activities by part of the station's staff.

In another development, eight opposition Senators asked a Prague court to order the television's new management and the Czech Radio Communications Authority to stop censoring parts of programming.

Czech TV head in hospital amid resignation calls

The embattled chief of Czech public television has spent the night in a Prague hospital, reportedly suffering from acute exhaustion. His condition is said to be stable and he has resumed communication with his team.

He was taken to hospital amid mounting demands for his resignation and the threat of criminal prosecution against him.

Mr Hodac was chosen last month by a council dominated by main parties -- the ruling Social Democrats and their opposition ally, the Civic Democrats. That sparked a staff strike and a public outcry backed by President Vaclav havel.

Demonstrations in Prague and other cities have been aimed at forcing Mr Hodac to quit. Organisers also want parliament to dump members of the Czech Television Council, the politically appointed body that hired him despite widespread allegations about his incompetence.

The Hodac managent has indicated its members could offer their resignations if parliament fires the incumbent Czech Television Council.

Parliament leader calls legislative state of emergency

Lower House Speaker Vaclav Klaus has announced a legislative state of emergency to allow lawmakers to pass as soon as possible a new media law designed to defuse the crisis.

The new bill would outlaw any political party influence on the Czech Television Council.

EC plays down Czech TV crisis

The General Secretary of the International Federation of Journalists, Aidan White, has asked the European Commission's president Romano Prodi to launch a probe into the crisis at Czech Television.

Mr White said the station did not seem to function as a standard, democratic institution.

However, the European Commission has played down the row over media freedom in the Czech Republic. It said it was sure democracy would prevail in the aspiring European Union member.

The Commission's spokesman on EU enlargement, Jean-Christophe Filori, said in Brussels he was confident in Czech democracy, which had demonstrated its vitality in the past.

However, the EU's permanent representative in Prague, Ramiro Cibrian, says the European Union is concerned over the latest developments in the Czech Republic.

The EU Commission's President Romano Prodi is expected to comment on the situation in the next few days.

Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan has said that in spite of the television crisis, there are no signs of violation of media freedom, including freedom of speech. He said so in a personal letter to the European Commission, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the International Federation of Journalists.

Defence minister orders health checks for KFOR servicemen

Czech Defence Minister Vladimir Vetchy has ordered immediate medical checks to be performed on all Czech soldiers who served on the KFOR peacekeeping mission in Kosovo.

His spokesman said tests would be carried out to ascertain potential effects of depleted uranium on the health of the servicemen.

Speculation about the effects of depleted uranium, used in NATO's ammunition in Kosovo, emerged after six Italian peacekeepers were reported to have died of leukemia after their mission.

Soccer: Poborsky to join Lazio from Benfica Lisbon

Football -- and Czech midfielder Karel Poborsky will join Italy's defending champions Lazio from the Portuguese club Benfica for 2.5 million dollars.

The player's agent Pavel Paska has told the Czech news agency CTK that Poborsky will sign an 18-month contract in Rome on Friday if he passes medical checks.

He said Poborsky wanted to return home to the Czech Republic and therefore he was joining Lazio only for a year and a half.

Italian newspapers have reported that Poborsky is set to sign a three-year contract for just under five million dollars.

The 28-year-old attacking midfielder helped the Czech Republic reach the final of Euro 96. He joined Manchester United after the championship but failed to win a position in the first team and moved to Benfica at the end of 1997.

Czech weather report

And finally, a look at the weather in the Czech Republic.

On Friday, we expect cloudy skies with plenty of drizzle that could freeze on the roads in the morning. There will be frequent snow showers in the mountains. Nighttime lows around zero Celsius or slightly below. Daytime highs between one and five degrees above freezing.

At the weekend, cold and warm fronts will advance eastward across Czech territory. Both days will be cloudy and partly also wet, and we expect drizzle in the morning hours and snow showers in the mountains. Nighttime lows around zero Celsius, daytime highs between two and six degrees above freezing.