News Thursday, JANUARY 11th, 2001

By Nick Carey

Rebel journalists broadcast nation-wide

Rebel journalists at the country's public television network have broadcast their first nation-wide news programme in almost two weeks. Czech Television journalists went on strike following the appointment of Jiri Hodac as the television station's new general director on December 20. The journalists accuse Mr. Hodac, who was appointed by a politically-selected supervisory board, of political bias, and occupied the newsroom at the station after they were threatened with dismissal. They continued with their broadcasts until Mr. Hodac ordered them taken off the air, which restricted the rebel journalists' broadcasts to the Internet and satellite. A small team of journalists loyal to Mr. Hodac had been broadcasting makeshift news programmes, which have been accused of being heavily biased, until Tuesday night, when the station's head of news, Jana Bobosikova, announced that the broadcasts of the striking journalists would no longer be blocked.

Council member calls for resignation of director of Czech TV

And a member of the Czech Television Supervisory Board has appealed openly for Jiri Hodac to resign as general director of Czech TV. The supervisory board met on Monday and ignored a call from the Lower House of Parliament to dismiss Mr. Hodac as the only means of ending the crisis. Board member Jiri Kratochvil said that if Mr. Hodac refused to resign, and that if communications between the management of striking staff members did not improve, then he would hand in his own resignation. Mr. Kratochvil was appointed to the board by the ruling Social Democrats. Another two Social Democrat appointees on the board have also threatened to resign over the crisis. Mr. Hodac, who was hospitalised last week and is convalescing at home, was unavailable for comment, but according to staff loyal to him at Czech TV, he is not prepared to resign at this point.

The Lower House of Parliament is due to debate the dismissal of the supervisory board and the creation of a new non-political board this Friday. The lower house's culture committee has suggested that some of the board's competences be passed to parliament as a temporary measure.

Ralston: NATO will provide information on depleted uranium

At a press conference in Prague, NATO's allied supreme commander in Europe says that NATO will make public all information on the use of depleted uranium shells. In light of claims that a number of NATO soldiers had developed leukaemia after serving in the Balkans, General Joseph Ralston said that NATO had promised complete openness about its use of such weapons. According to General Ralston, fears over the so-called Balkan Syndrome have reached the general public through misinformation. General Ralston said the amount of depleted uranium used by NATO was very small, and that it is called depleted uranium because its radioactivity has been depleted.

Austrian environmentalists call for more tests at Temelin

Austrian environmentalists have called for tests at the Temelin nuclear power plant in South Bohemia to be extended until the end of this year. The controversial nuclear power plant, located just fifty kilometres from the Austrian border, has severely strained relations between the Czech Republic and Austria over the past six months. Following prolonged protests and border blockades by Austrian activists, at a meeting in December, Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman and Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schussel agreed to carry out an environmental impact study on Temelin. Environmentalists have called on the governor of Lower Austria, Erwin Proll, who is to meet with the Czech prime minister this Friday, to extend safety tests at Temelin until the end of this year.

Constitutional Court rejects cancellation of ticket fines

The Czech Constitutional Court has ruled that public transport companies can continue to levy fines from fare dodgers. The district court in Karvin in North Moravia proposed that Constitutional Court that public transport companies be prevented from levying fines, as it was convinced that this breaches the principles of equality as laid out in the Charter of Human Rights. The district court claimed that ticket inspectors had free rein to set the level of fine to be paid, and so allows them to abuse the rights of others. The Constitutional Court ruled that when using public transport of their own accord, Czech citizens enter into a contractual relationship with the company providing the service, and upon breaching that contract, they have to pay a fine.

And finally, a quick look at the weather.

The weather in the Czech Republic on Thursday should see overcast skies with scattered snow or rain showers. Daytime temperatures should be between two and minus two degrees Celsius. Temperatures during the night could reach as low as minus four degrees Celsius.