Parliament approves new law on public broadcasting in marathon session

The lower house of the Czech Parliament has approved a new law on the country's public television network, Czech Television, which MPs say will dilute much-criticised political influence on the station. After a marathon 18-hour session, frequently marked by bitter disputes, the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democratic Party unexpectedly changed sides and joined the ruling Social Democrats to support the new bill. The opposition Four-Party Coalition, however, said the law didn't go far enough to protect the independence of public broadcasting, and voted against it. They accused the two parties, bound together by a power-sharing pact, of acting to protect their own interests, rather than the freedom of the press. The Civic Democrats, however, succeeded in passing a motion stating that press freedom in the Czech Republic was not in danger.