News Wednesday, JULY 22nd, 1998

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Radio Prague E-News date: July 22, 1998, 0900 UTC written/read by: Libor Kubik

These are the top Czech stories this hour, now the news in more detail, read by Libor Kubik.

CZECH-US-GYPSIES-CRITICISE

The Helsinki Committee of the American Congress heavily criticised the Czech Republic on Tuesday for its alleged discrimination against its Gypsy or Roma minority.

Roma affairs experts told the Congressional committee on security and cooperation in Europe that broad strata of this country's Gypsy population live in poverty and their rights are violated.

CZECH-SLOVAKIA-FLOODS-AID

Czech authorities say they are prepared to grant emergency aid to the flooded areas in the neighbouring Slovak Republic. Foreign Ministry Spokesman Rudolf Hykl said on Tuesday that first contacts with Slovak partners had been established.

At least 29 people, including several children, drowned late on Monday and early on Tuesday in floods in eastern Slovakia. Officials in Bratislava feared the death toll could be much higher because dozens of people were thought missing.

Fifteen people alone died in one village, including nine children.

HAVEL-HEALTH

The doctors taking care of Czech President Vaclav Havel say he is in good health before a scheduled intestinal operation early next week.

A statement, signed by Havel's chief doctor Miroslav Cerbak on Tuesday, said the 61-year-old president would be admitted to the Central Military Hospital in Prague tomorrow, with surgery to remove a bag bridging a gap in his intestine scheduled for Monday.

But Doctor Boris Stastny from Havel's medical team said the surgery could be performed one day ahead of schedule, at the president's own request.

Havel was taken ill while on vacation in Austria during April and had emergency surgery to remove about 30 cm of his large intestine.

Later today, Havel will swear in a new Czech government at the Prague Castle. The Social Democratic cabinet is a minority one but it has the support of the main opposition Civic Democratic party of Parliament Speaker Vaclav Klaus.

CZECH-PARTIES-POLL

Almost half the Czech population believe that political parties are indifferent to ordinary people's needs. This according to the Prague-based STEM polling agency.

More than two fifths of those polled this week said members of parliament are not familiar with their electorate's actual views.

The poll shows that, generally, voters and sympathizers of the right-wing parties are more optimistic about the qualities of their elected representatives.

One surprise outcome is that up to a third of those polled believe the country's political system would work better if its leaders were appointed on the basis of their professional abilities, and not elected by popular vote.

CZECH-ELECTION-MEDIA

A poll released on Tuesday indicates that public-service electronic media such as Czech Radio and Czech Television provided an accurate, unbiased coverage of last month's early general election.

More than half of those questioned said the public stations' election coverage was impartial. Both stations received good marks especially from voters with right-wing preferences.

In contrast, the media were criticised mainly by sympathizers of the nation's three extremist parties -- Republican, Communist and Pensioners'.

EUROPE-EAST-CRISIS

Leading European bankers said on Tuesday that EU associate members from central and eastern Europe, currently negotiating their EU entry, are not threatened by an Asian-type financial crisis.

EIB and BERD officials told the European Parliament in Brussels that this region was on its way to a fundamental economic development, and its prospects were optimistic.

CZECH-TENNIS-NOVOTNA

Tennis -- and Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna on Tuesday ruled herself out of the Czech Republic's Federation Cup play-off against Italy, saying she needed a rest.

The hectic schedule of world number two Novotna, who has won the Wimbledon singles and doubles titles as well as Eastbourne and the Czech Open in recent weeks, finally caught up with her last weekend.

Novotna lost on Saturday in the semifinals of the A&P Tennis Classic in the U.S. in stifling heat.

Lenka Nemeckova, ranked 91, will replace Novotna and will represent the Czechs in this weekend's World Group play-off along with Radka Bobkova, Kvetoslava Hrdlickova and Michaela Pastikova.

And that's the end of the news.