Press Review

Well, today's a public holiday, which means almost no daily papers here in the Czech Republic. So instead, Radio Prague have taken this opportunity to bring you an insight into how the international press viewed the events of the last few days in the Czech capital.

Many of the European and American dailies carried dramatic pictures and reports of the running battles between anti-globalisation protesters opposed to the IMF and World Bank and the Czech authorities. Burning barricades, tear-gas blurred skies and bloody-nosed police officers always make for good front-page coverage. However, with many foreign journalists already winging their way to the next hotspot, it is the editorials and commentaries that come into force.

Time Magazine reports on the warm memories that some of the IMF dignitaries may have of their days as revolutionaries. It points out that both the chair and the host of the conference were in fact themselves once passionate, idealistic young thinkers who believed they could overthrow the system. The host nation's president, Vaclav Havel, was a dissident much feared by the state, as was the once anti-apartheid activist and now South African Finance Minister Trevor Manuel.

Both sympathise with the protesters' ideals, but as Finance Minister Manuel points out, the real problem lies not with the institutions but with the United States, Britain, and France. Nations who, he says, refuse to deliver on debt relief or share the power in the financial institutions--something he believes the protesters don't understand.

And that's an opinion which one Financial Times commentator seems to agree with. In his words "many of the protesters in Prague may not have mastered the economics of globalisation, but they certainly understand the politics." The protesters' criticisms have, in his opinion, destroyed any pretence that the IMF and World Bank are global institutions with more than 180 members. He believes that the institutions should in fact be truly global and "not creditor collection agencies, designed to shield taxpayers in the rich countries from the bad news about world poverty".

Britain's Guardian had some of its reports sent from a protester amidst the clashes. In his report, he describes the day's action and quotes a statement from INPEG, the protest organisers: "If you threw a rock, firebomb, apple, bottle or anything else at a cop during yesterday's protest, then shame on you." He ends simply by saying "our peaceful protest has been aborted by those we call Comrades"

The people power which once belonged firmly with trade unions now belongs to the mailing list--so says the French daily Le Monde. In a wordy commentary, it looked at the highly effective way that the Internet was used to inform, mobilise and coordinate the international spectrum of protesters who arrived in Prague and in Seattle before that. It concludes "yesterday Seattle, today Prague, tomorrow Biarritz; somewhere in the threads of the Web the caravan is moving forward"

One thing is for sure: the IMF and World Bank meeting in Prague means that the shadowy policies and workings of the two institutions and the many diverse views of the protesters are, until the next big story comes along at least, very much topics for discussion.