Press Review

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Bad weather always makes good copy for newspaper editors - Mlada fronta Dnes leads with a front-page picture of drivers in the Jizerske Hory mountains digging out their cars from beneath two and a half metres of snow. The Czechs call it a "snow calamity" - but clearly not everyone thinks being snowed under is a disaster - Pravo's front page shows children sledding joyfully down a hill in the centre of Prague.

The snow is now receding, but Pravo says small villages have been ruined by the cost of coping with the severe weather. One mayor, from the village of Jilovice in South Bohemia, says the cost of clearing massive snow drifts will affect the village's finances for the rest of the year. The village coffers are so bare, says Pravo, that only essential maintenance work will be carried out over the next 12 months. The mayor even used her own tractor to help clear the drifts.

Meanwhile at the other end of the country in the Beskydy Mountains, the party's finally coming to an end for around 100 merrymakers who've been stuck in their hotels and cottages since New Year's Eve. As Mlada fronta Dnes reports, a tractor finally made it through the snow to the village of Bily Kriz on Thursday afternoon, setting free the stranded partygoers after a four-day ordeal of drinking champagne and letting off fireworks.

Actually it wasn't all that fun - the paper says that some of the guest houses began to run dangerously low on supplies - one waiter had to ski to the next village for loaves of bread - a trip that took him five hours. That's what I call service.

Moving on to something slightly more serious, and Lidove noviny reports that prosecutors have halted proceedings against the leader of a neo-Nazi skinhead group who said in public that the United States got what it deserved on September 11. Jan Kopal, leader of the Right Alternative - a far-right group formerly known as the National Social Bloc, was charged in late September with the crime of "approving of a criminal offence." Now, however, police have decided he was only expressing his opinion.

But as Lidove noviny says, a journalist who defended Mr Kopal's right to speak his mind is still being prosecuted. Bristke Listy reporter Tomas Pecina was arrested and charged after saying freedom of speech was the democratic right of each and every citizen, regardless of how odious his or her views are. Mr Pecina also claims he was arrested not because of his defence of Mr Kopal, but because of his critical articles about the police, says the paper.

And finally Mlada fronta Dnes highlights a loophole in local regulations on walking your dog in the city of Prague. While there's a 1000-crown fine for letting your dog off the leash in the city's parks, says the paper, there's no such regulation governing the walking of dogs anywhere else.

Which means, says the paper, that mutts can run free - unmuzzled and unleashed - in squares and on pavements and even on the paths inside the parks, and their owners cannot be punished. This ridiculous situation, says Mlada fronta Dnes, was caused by a recent amendment to the Highway Code. Councillors are currently working on new regulations, but until then Prague will remain canine heaven.