News of Radio Prague
International arbitration court rules against Lauder
An international court of arbitration in London has ruled against American media mogul Ronald Lauder in a highly publicized case in which he sued the Czech Republic for allegedly violating the investment protections agreement it had signed with the United States. The court overturned all of Lauder's compensation claims, ruling that the Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting had done nothing to violate the terms of the mentioned agreement and that the Czech Republic could not be held responsible for Ronald Lauder's business losses. The American multi millionaire took the Czech Republic to court after he was forced out of a joint enterprise with the Czech Republic's most successful private TV station NOVA, claiming that he had lost out on millions of dollars of investments.
Scheduled blockade downgraded to symbolic protest
A scheduled all-day blockade of traffic in Prague on Wednesday has been downgraded to a symbolic protest in which traffic may be slowed down but not paralyzed. Transport minister Jaromir Schling has condemned the protest warning the Association of Car Importers that he would not negotiate under pressure. In a statement for the CTK news agency the transport minister rejected any responsibility for disruption of traffic in the Czech capital saying that his ministry had fully adhered to a compromise agreement reached several days ago in the presence of the prime minister. The Association of Car Importers, which is protesting against a law that has allegedly damaged the car-importing business, claims that instead of punishing the officials responsible the minister had appointed them to a commission which is to draft an amendment to the law. The Association of Car Importers is demanding the dismissal of minister Schling and the two officials believed to be responsible for the present crisis .
Freedom House gives Czech Republic bad report
The US-funded human rights organization Freedom House claims that the Czech Republic's democracy record has worsened. In its annual report Freedom House criticizes what it calls "a hidden coalition" between the two strongest parties in the Czech Republic, particularly their alleged efforts to marginalize smaller parties in Czech politics and restrict the powers of the President and the Central Bank. The report says that in many ways democracy in the Czech Republic is still fragile. It cites the power struggle at Czech Public TV last year as a battle for independent journalism, claims that the Czech judiciary is slow and often ineffective and that corruption is rife in the state sector. The majority of Czech politicians find the report exaggerated or even untrue. The governing Social Democrats, their opposition allies of the Civic Democratic Party and the Czech Communist Party have rejected it outright, the opposition Four Party Coalition says that while certain observations are correct the Czech government cannot in all fairness be accused of interfering with freedom of speech.
Left wing extremist faces charges
A twenty three year old Czech who called for an armed struggle to bring about the return of communist rule has been charged with extremist offenses. David Pecha wrote articles for a far-left newspaper in which he called the country's post 1989 politicians criminals and traitors, calling for an armed struggle to bring about a return of communist rule and nationalization of property. He is the first left wing extremist to be prosecuted under a recently amended Czech law on extremism. Until now the law had only been used to prosecute Neo-Nazis. If found guilty Pecha may face up to eight years in prison.
Price of electricity to go up
Czechs will have to pay more in electricity bills in the coming year. In line with the government's deregulation programme the price of electricity is expected to climb by an average 13% in 2002 . Individual prices will depend on distributors and location. Electricity will be cheapest in eastern Bohemia and most expensive in Prague.
Gruesome murder resolved
Police in Brno have arrested a thirty two year old man for allegedly killing and dismembering his girlfriend, packing some parts in boxes and mailing them to fictitious addresses. The man, whose name was not released, has reportedly confessed to the crime. Police claim that the suspect mailed the boxes from two Prague post offices, one of which was equipped with a video camera that caught him in the act. The gruesome crime has shocked the nation and drawn enormous media attention.
Austrian-Czech efforts to ease up tension over Temelin
The Austrian President Thomas Klestil and the Environment Minister Wilhem Molterer on Tuesday refused to throw their weight behind an aggressive upper- Austrian campaign against the Temelin nuclear power plant. Called upon to take a stand by the governor of Upper Austria Josef Puhringer, President Klestil said the Czech Republic and Austria must cooperate to find a mutually acceptable solution, while environment minister Molterer warned upper Austria against "playing with fire" by trying to link the Czech Republic's accession to the European Union with the Temelin controversy. Austrian industry leaders have also warned that ill-feeling over the Czech nuclear power plant was burdening much needed cooperation in economics and infrastructure. The Association of Industrialists said that on no account must the issue of Temelin endanger the Czech Republic's entry into the European Union. President Havel is expected to visit neighbouring Austria on Thursday. President Klestil's office has described the visit as an attempt to diffuse tension in bilateral relations.
We can expect a fairly cold night with overcast skies and drizzle in many parts of the country. More rain is expected in the course of the day with Wednesday's temps forecast at between 14 and 18 degs C.