News Tuesday, JANUARY 09th, 2001

By: Rob Cameron

Czech TV board meets: Hodac to stay on

The supervisory board of the country's public television network, Czech Television, has refused to dismiss the network's embattled Director General Jiri Hodac. Following hours of debate on Monday, the council failed to include a vote of dismissal on the meeting's agenda. The board's failure to sack Mr Hodac was condemned by the leadership of the ruling Social Democrats, who have withdrawn their support for the Director General. The lower house of parliament, the Chamber of Deputies, called on Saturday for the board to dismiss Mr Hodac unless he steps down voluntarily, adding to pressure from the station's staff and the general public. The lower house could now go ahead with threats to sack the board for non-compliance as early as Friday, replacing it with one which would fire Mr Hodac. The Chamber of Deputies will discuss a legal amendment to replace the board with one whose members would be nominated by professional and civic groups, not by politicians, although members will still be appointed by parliament.

Mr Hodac's appointment three weeks ago sparked off a strike by staff and the biggest street demonstration since the 1989 overthrow of Communism. Opponents say he and the new head of news at Czech Television, Jana Bobosikova, are biased towards the right-of-centre Civic Democrats. The Civic Democrats keep the ruling Social Democrats in government under a power-sharing pact, and the two parties dominate the supervisory board that elected Mr Hodac. The massive opposition to Mr Hodac, however, has prompted the Social Democrats to withdraw their support. The Czech Foreign Minister, Jan Kavan, said this weekend that the crisis over Czech Television could threaten the country's bid to join the European Union.

Hodac to be released from hospital for convalescence at home

And Mr Hodac was released from hospital on Monday evening, and will undergo convalescence at home. Mr Hodac was hospitalised last Thursday, suffering from so-far unspecified health problems. Colleagues said he was discovered unconscious outside his apartment after apparently collapsing from nervous exhaustion. A spokeswoman for the hospital said Mr Hodac's condition had improved considerably and that he was fit to leave hospital. Head of News Jana Bobosikova said Mr Hodac would probably be well enough to resume his duties later this week. Mr Hodac has suffered health problems in the past. He was hospitalised on the day he resigned from a previous post at Czech Television, also suffering from unspecified health problems.

Temelin shutdowns "normal part of testing process"

A spokesman for the controversial Temelin nuclear power station in South Bohemia has said a series of automatic shutdowns at the plant are a normal part of the plant's ongoing testing procedures and do not reflect any inherent flaws. The plant has been temporarily shut down four times since the first of its two reactors was launched for testing in October. The reactor is scheduled to reach full power early this year, and the second reactor is set for start-up next autumn. The spokesman said Sunday's shutdown was triggered by a problem with regulators that control the flow of water to the plant's four steam generators. Previous shutdowns have been blamed on pump and computer malfunctions. Temelin, located close to the Austrian border, has been the target of ongoing protests by Austrian authorities and anti-nuclear activists. They say its combination of Soviet-era design and western safety controls is dangerous, charges with the Czech government denies. As part of a recent agreement between the Czech and Austrian governments, the plant will undergo a thorough environmental assessment before it can be placed in full operation.

Former tennis star arrested over embezzlement charges

The former Czech tennis player, Milan Srejber, was arrested at Prague's Ruzyne International Airport on Sunday and remanded in custody pending criminal proceedings. Mr Srejber was detained shortly after arriving on a scheduled flight from London. The former-world circuit player, owner of the firm Srejber Tennis Investing, stands accused of embezzling more than 13 million crowns in the mid-1990s. Mr Srejber is best-known as the secret donor behind a multi-million gift to the right-of-centre Civic Democrats, which hastened the fall of the Civic-Democrat-led government in late 1997 and led to several months of political instability.


And finally a look at the weather. Tuesday will be a cold and cloudy day, with rain and snow in places. Daytime temperatures will reach a maximum of 4 degrees Celsius, falling to lows of minus two degrees at night.