Press Review

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The front pages of all the Czech papers today are dominated by photographs and reports of the crash of a light aircraft into a high-rise Bank-of-America building in Tampa, Florida. Most of the papers also look at the 25th anniversary of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto which angered the Communist regime in Czechoslovakia and made the country's dissident movement well-known abroad. Nearly all the papers also feature pictures of a rare and somewhat surreal sight in the centre of a snow-bound Prague. Sunday was the festival of Epiphany, known here as Three Kings Day - and in keeping with tradition, three wise men mounted on camels, rode across the Old Town Square to pay homage to a living infant Jesus, in the form of a rather chilly-looking baby.

Pravo writes about one of the unpleasant effects of the very heavy snowfalls which hit most parts of the country in recent days. In many places, the snow cover prevented household waste collection so that people's garbage hasn't been collected since New Year. And of course, those affected are angry, because they have not been provided with a service they pay for.

A representative of one of the waste collecting firms in the Northern town of Liberec told Pravo that they would like to service the remaining streets by the middle of this week. They are definitely luckier than citizens of the town of Karvina - their dustmen are unlikely to come before Saturday at the earliest.

Today's Lidove noviny devotes a whole page to a promotional CD-ROM reportedly produced in the Czech Republic for Islamic extremists. The pressing of the CD, which is now being investigated by the Czech police and intelligence service, was ordered three weeks after the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. The CD mixes videos of US military actions, the attack on the Twin Towers, and Muslims peacefully praying and studying.

Lidove noviny talks to a leading Czech scholar of Islam, university professor Lubos Kropacek, who says that the accompanying commentary to the video is done in a way often seen in the Islamic world - it contains more or less true information but taken out of context so that it creates an image of the United States and Israel as aggressors who are the source or cause of terrorism, while Islamic fundamentalists only defend their own countries.

Mlada fronta Dnes carries an extensive report on the extremely early launch of the pre-election campaign before the general elections due to take place in June. The mainstream political parties have started addressing the voters in many - but not particularly innovative - ways: by sending New Year's greetings to every household, newspaper advertisements and billboards.

Perhaps the most controversial is a billboard featuring the leader of the main opposition Civic Democratic Party, Vaclav Klaus - a passionate sportsman - holding a pair of skis. In fact this isn't an election poster at all. Ostensibly at least, Mr Klaus is promoting the wares of a well-known sports equipment manufacturer. The opposition leader's face now looks down from hoardings throughout the Czech Republic in a campaign that hasn't cost Mr Klaus or his party a single crown.