Ombudsman gets high approval rating from the public

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When the institution of Ombudsman - defender of citizens rights - was set up four years ago in the Czech Republic plenty of people were sceptical. They regarded it as just another office which would employ more bureaucrats and spend more money. But four years into his six-year term, the first Czech Ombudsman Otakar Motejl has clearly won public trust.

Ombudsman Otakar Motejl
In the first three years of its existence, the Ombudsman's Office dealt with over 14,000 complaints from the public, helping to resolve over 7,000 cases and providing legal advice in the remaining 7,000.

The Ombudsman's activities ranged from pointing out irregularities in Czech law to ensuring that Moslems were not served pork in Czech prisons. It is thanks to him that Czech citizens now have full access to their health records and can ask to see the health records of their diseased relatives. And it was at his request that the directors of institutions for problem children recently banned the use of secret cameras and bugging devices.

An opinion poll just out shows that the first ever Czech Ombudsman Otakar Motejl is now the second most trusted public figure in the country. With a 53% approval rating he is second only to the president and considered more trustworthy that any cabinet member -including the prime minister. Political analyst Jiri Pehe says the Ombudsman's fast ascent on the popularity ladder is not surprising.

"The opinion poll shows two things. First that the Office of Ombudsman is becoming more popular, that people realize that this a useful office to have since there are many problems in the Czech civil service, the state administration system and so on. And the Ombudsman's office, despite its limited powers, seems to be at least able to point to such things and demand a remedy. But I think that the high approval rate also has to do with Mr. Otakar Motejl himself. He is a popular person, a former minister of justice and chairman of the Supreme Court. He is someone who is quite likeable and I think it is the combination of his personality and the performance of his office that makes the institution of Ombudsman so popular nowadays."