News Monday, JANUARY 01th, 2001

by: David Vaughan

President calls for basic moral values

In his traditional New Year address, President Vaclav Havel has appealed for a return to basic and simple moral values. He said that in a world, which seems increasingly confusing, certain values remain constant. Doubt and shock at what some people are capable of doing, the President said, can be a positive force, because they motivate us to try to make things better, and doubt itself springs from our sense of what is right and wrong. He added that our own moral awareness drives our sense of decent behaviour and our hope that somewhere, somehow, justice will be done. In his speech the president picked out several groups in society for particular praise, including teachers, doctors, nurses and soldiers, and people who work for civic initiatives and foundations. He criticized his fellow politicians for not giving greater support to the non-profit sector. In his speech President Havel also indirectly expressed his support for the Czech public service television journalists who are currently locked in conflict with Czech TV's new management. There are many journalists, the President said, who refuse to let themselves be ruled by power groups. In a thinly veiled reference to the Czech TV journalists, he said that despite all the risks some journalists are not willing to give up their search for the truth.

Czech TV battle continues

The battle over Czech TV continued in full force over the New Year holiday. Czech Television's controversial new director, Jiri Hodac, continued in his attempt to gain control over the newsroom, which has remained in the hands of journalists, who refuse to recognize his appointment and claim it was motivated by party political interests. Mr Hodac has now employed a private security firm to control who comes into and goes out of the newsroom, and around fifty journalists spent the New Year virtually barricaded into their office. Mr Hodac repeated his claim that the protestors are breaking the law, adding that they would be held materially responsible for damage done to the station. Meanwhile, in a snub to Mr Hodac, President Havel phoned the protestors to wish them a good New Year. On Monday the main television trade union declared a strike, but gave assurances that broadcasts would not be affected. The Czech trade-union leader, Richard Falbr, said that he would call a meeting of trade unions throughout the country, to discuss possible support for strike action at Czech Television.

New Year Celebrations

Despite very icy temperatures thousands of people took to the streets of Prague and other Czech cities to celebrate the official dawning of the new millennium. Although celebrations were on nothing like the scale seen last year, the whole Czech capital was lit up at midnight by fireworks, culminating in a huge firework show at Letna Park just above the city centre. The first Czech baby of the New Year was a boy, Lukas, who was born just fifteen seconds into 2001 at the maternity hospital in the eastern town of Trinec.


We can expect the weather to get a little warmer, with the occasional snow or sleet show and temperatures around freezing. Nighttime temperatures could sink to a chilly minus 6 degrees Celsius.