News of Radio Prague

Auditors to dig deep at Czech Public TV

Independent auditors have began reviewing the records of Czech Public Television to determine whether the recent crisis at the station was linked to alleged financial improprieties. Jiri Balvin , the newly appointed temporary director of Czech Television, the country's public television network, has confirmed the outcome of a tender on the basis of which the firm Price Waterhouse Coopers will carry out an audit covering the station's finances over the past ten years. During the highly publicized crisis over the future of Czech TV, several members of its former management suggested that employees were using the media- freedom issue as a smoke screen to hide questionable financial deals.

Czech President on the mend

President Vaclav Havel, who is fighting pneumonia in a Prague hospital, is reported to be making progress. The President's personal physician Ilya Kotik told the press that Mr. Havel was feeling much better. His breathing is said to have improved after doctors succeeded in unclogging his right lung, and antibiotics have proved effective in fighting the infection. A third of the President's right lung was removed along with a malignant tumor back in 1996 and he has since been prone to chest infections. Doctors say that, barring complications, he could be released from hospital early next week.

Czech KFOR unit undergoes medical screening

A Czech unit that served in the KFOR mission in Kosovo last year has undergone medical screening in connection with the so called "Balkan syndrome". 169 out of 173 officers who served a 6 month term in Kosovo in the second half of last year have undergone screening. The tests failed to reveal any symptoms that could be linked to depleted uranium exposure. Although there has been no official confirmation of a link between depleted uranium exposure and a series of leukemia-related deaths among former KFOR soldiers, the Czech military has ordered a gradual screening of all 500 Czech soldiers who served in Kosovo since 1999.

Proposed amendment to conflict of interests law

The Czech government has approved a proposed amendment to the law banning conflict of interests. According to the proposed bill, members of Parliament, Senators and board members of the National Property Fund should not receive payment for services rendered to firms with state ownership. As Labor and Social Affairs minister Vladimir Spidla explained, the officials in question are already being paid high salaries to defend public interests. According to the minister, the change of legislation would concern several dozen politicians who are currently employed as consultants or have seats on supervisory boards of state owned enterprises.

Government earmarks funds for anti-racism campaign

The Czech government has earmarked 10 million Czech crowns for a campaign against racism and intolerance in the year 2001. The money is to cover the cost of billboards, radio and television ads and various school events aimed at increasing awareness of existing minority problems and helping to eradicate deep-rooted prejudices. The education ministry is said to have been very pleased with the outcome of a similar campaign undertaken last year , in which groups of university students of different races visited 80 schools across the country for informal chats with primary and secondary school students. The interest in these visits was allegedly so great that the education ministry was unable to meet the demand for them.

Czechs optimistic on EU expansion

The Czech Republic can expect significant progress in membership talks with the European Union when Belgium takes over the rotating EU presidency in July, according the Czech government's chief EU negotiator, deputy foreign minister Pavel Telicka. Speaking at the end of the Czech Prime Minister's official visit to Belgium, Telicka said he had discerned a "significant positive shift in the approach of Belgian officials to EU expansion". The Czech government itself has made EU memberships one of its main priorities. While in Belgium, Prime Minister Milos Zeman announced that his country was dropping its requests for transition periods in key areas such as the liberalization of the electricity, fuel and telecom markets. The Czech Republic is hoping to join the EU, along with other frontrunner candidates, in 2003.

German border guards turn back 45 illegal migrants

German customs officials at the Altenberg border crossing point on the German- Czech border are reported to have detained two Czech truck drivers overnight for allegedly trying to smuggle 45 illegal migrants into Germany. The migrants from Sri Lanka, Iraq, Vietnam, China, Afghanistan and Russia, were hidden behind slabs of concrete which the truck was carrying. It is not clear where the group boarded the truck or what its destination was. The case is currently under investigation.

Czech foreign minister visits South Africa

The Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan is currently on a four-day official visit to South Africa . It is the first official visit to South Africa by a high-ranking Czech official since the fall of the communist regime in 1989, and the main goal of the visit is to strengthen political and economic relations between the two countries. South Africa became one of the leading non-European foreign investors in the Czech Republic when South African Breweries acquired majority shares in Plzensky Prazdroj and Radegast.

And finally, a quick look at the weather forecast for Thursday:

once the patches of morning fog have dispersed, we should see clear to partly cloudy skies and day temperatures between 4 and 8 degs C. Nighttime lows may drop to five degs below zero, so if you are heading out early in the morning remember to dress warmly.