Press Review

The mere eight seconds it took for Prime Minister Milos Zeman to apologise to Miroslav Macek, allegations that Czech television stations are favouring the opposition Civic Democrats and the plans of Komercni Banka's management to cover up a fraud with yet another fraud, all feature in the Czech papers today. Nick Carey has been reading the papers, and joins me now with the Press Review.

All the papers are not surprisingly full of the new election law, and its implications for the country, and most commentators are critical of the law, to say the least.

Away from the election law, however, LIDOVE NOVINY today deals with Prime Minister Milos Zeman's apology to Civic Democrat Deputy Chairman Miroslav Macek. The prime minister called Mr. Macek a thief and a fraud two years ago on TV Nova's Sunday lunchtime political discussion programme, and was ordered by a court in May to apologise on television prior to the programme. According to LIDOVE NOVINY, this goes some way to removing the prime minister's reputation of never apologising, even when ordered to so by a court of law. The apology was in text form, and appeared on screen for eight seconds. Afterwards, Mr. Macek said that he was very happy that the prime minister had respected the court's decision, but by not appearing in person and reading out his apology in front of the camera, Mr. Zeman had behaved like a child. What is more, said Mr. Macek, as the message only appeared for eight seconds, older people would have problems reading it in time. LIDOVE NOVINY points to the fact that this is not the first time that Milos Zeman has been ordered to apologise for remarks he has made about other politicians, but that up until now he has never actually managed to bring himself to do it.

CESKE SLOVO's lead article today deals with research carried out by the civic association InnoVatio into the amount of television time devoted to different political parties by the country's top two television stations, Czech Television and TV Nova. While InnoVatio says that while last year the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats received roughly the same amount of coverage in the news, this year the Civic Democrats have been receiving up to twenty percent more air time than the government. Neither of the two television stations seem keen to comment on the issue. Civic Democrat Deputy Chairman Ivan Langer, however, says that this is all because of a recent court case involving alleged fraud within the party. According to experts quoted by the paper, the research comes as no surprise. One of them, a former member of the board of Czech Television, says the Czech media has been politicised for a long time, and is used by politicians as a form of communication between each other.

MLADA FRONTA DNES leads with what could be a fresh scandal for Komercni Banka, one of the country's largest banks. The bank's nine former top directors have been removed from their jobs and face charges over eight billion Czech crowns, or roughly two hundred million dollars, that the bank lent to an Austrian company B.C.L. Trading for what turned out to be fictitious transactions. The latest scandal, says the paper, again involves the bank's former management, and it is alleged that they decided to cover the losses in B.C.L. with another eight billion Czech crowns, which B.C.L. would then use to cover the original loan. During their investigation, the police suspected that the former directors were in cahoots with the owner of B.C.L. Trading. This latest information is likely to further convince them of that, concludes the paper.

And finally a quirky little mistaken identity story from the front page of PRAVO. Seventy-year-old Dana Mytrykova, who lives in the East Bohemian town of Hradec Kralove, is in the very best of health. She is still very active and goes on long walks, and was therefore quite surprised to receive a letter saying that her artificial leg was ready. Shocked, she called the health authorities, and was told quite bluntly over the phone that she was to receive an artificial leg because she only had one leg. Now angry, Mrs. Mytrykova stormed off to complain, and when it was quite apparent that she did, in fact, have both legs, she received an apology and wishes of good health and a long life. Pull the other one, it's got bells on.