Press Review

Well, today's newspapers offer a mix of headlines which carry a variety of warnings, for example on the arrival of a flu- epidemic in Prague and a slight slow-down in the Czech Republic's economic growth. But we start with a headline concerning the trade unions at Czech TV, which are threatening a strike at the Czech Republic's national broadcasting television station, unless demands for wage increases are met.

That's right... Lidove noviny notes that it was a year ago that employees at the station first went on strike in protest over another issue: the controversial appointment of Czech TV's former general director. But the paper points out that this time employees are not concerned with threats to the freedom of speech, but with the size of their paycheques instead.

According to Lidove noviny the trade unions at Czech TV are arguing for pay rises across the board because they say there are some at the company who are earning less than the monthly minimum wage... a view which is belittled by one of the paper's editorials.

Lidove noviny's Martin Zverina argues that instead of indiscriminately raising wages, the heads of Czech TV should concentrate on raising standards of broadcasting at the station instead, and laments the fact that no one is really interested in Czech TV's overall financial situation. In a tone of unbridled sarcasm Mr Zverina suggests that the trade unions, which are not happy with current management restructuring, would only be happy if they could run the station themselves.

Well, we'll have to see how that clash pans out, with trade unions saying they will go on strike in April, if some kind of agreement is not reached... Meanwhile a flu epidemic may rear its ugly head over Prague, warns Vecernik Praha: the paper writes that the coming epidemic may drive some to hospital, especially children and the elderly, and those suffering from weakened immune systems. According to the paper the epidemic is expected to hit Prague within the next ten days.

But Vecernik Praha also quotes the head of Prague's main hygiene office as saying that fears are being "exaggerated by the press", so it is really a question of whom to believe. The head of the hygiene office or the doctors, who the paper says are preparing for a lack in hospital rooms by organising emergency accomodations for the possible flood of incoming patients.

Now, another warning of sorts: Friday's Hospodarske noviny features a story on a slight slow-down in the Czech Republic's economic growth, influenced by the economic recession in neighbouring Germany. The daily writes that while half a year ago the Czech Republic's GDP growth was estimated at 4 percent, current estimates rank the number closer at 3 or 3.5.

Hospodarske noviny points out that the recession in Germany, and its effects on the Czech Republic are positive for at least some Czech firms, since German companies are turning to cheaper Czech sub-contracters and suppliers in order to meet tightened budgets.

And finally, Mlada fronta Dnes offers a fascinating story this day on how the Czech Republic may soon lose ownership of a valuable series of paintings, including Steamboat on the Seine by French impressionist Paul Signac.

It turns out that the thirty or so paintings and drawings in the collection, which belongs to Prague's Jewish Museum after being acquired from the National Gallery, originally belonged to Jewish factory owner Emil Freund, who died in the Lodz ghetto in 1941. After the end of World War II the collection fell into the hands of the state.

Now relatives of Emil Freund have appeared to lay claim to the collection, one of them being U.S. citizen Gerald McDonald. Prague's Jewish museum says it will be happy to return the collection, providing that right of ownership is proven. Interestingly enough, if Gerald McDonald and relatives do get back Signac's Steamboat on the Seine, they will not be allowed to transfer that particular painting from the Czech Republic, because it is considered to be part of the national heritage. The overall collection is estimated to be worth more than 1 million US dollars.