Press Review

The panic that's swept the country over envelopes containing suspicious white powder takes up a lot of column inches in today's Czech newspapers. Mlada fronta Dnes says that the world has now become 'a hostage to its own fear'. The economic supplements cover extensively the government's proposal for next year's state budget, with almost all of them agreeing that it would not make it through parliament.

Hospodarske noviny reports that it is quite certain that the minority ruling Social Democrats will have to present parliament with a new proposal for next year's state budget. It quotes Prime Minister, Milos Zeman, as saying that since all opposition parties, with the partial exception of the Communist Party, have declared that they would vote against the budget proposal, it is quite likely that it will not make it through Parliament's first hearing. Civic Democratic MP, Martin Kocourek tells the paper that the government should not have prematurely counted on future expected revenues whilst drafting the budget, and adds that the sum in question amounts to at least ten billion Czech crowns.

Lidove noviny writes that Ceska Podnikatelska Pojistovna, one of the country's biggest insurance companies - set up to provide insurance to businesses and entrepreneurs - had failed to secure its clients' private data information. Until today, the paper says, all one needed was an internet link and a few minutes in order to get to the names, addresses, and personal identification numbers of the company's clients. A hacker could furthermore find out how long the client has been insured and what type insurance he had.

The paper points out that this is the first case where it was revealed that one could access private data over the internet, and adds that experts say that the fault lies with the company's internet page provider. According to Lidove noviny, the Office for the Protection of Private Data sees it as a violation of the law and has declared that it will look into the matter.

Moving on from insurance companies to Czech banks and Mlada fronta Dnes reports on the mysterious disappearance of money from a number of accounts of Ceska Sporitelna, - or Czech Savings Bank - clients. The paper says that the first case, reported on Tuesday evening, detected that there was money missing from an account held by a Prague-based entrepreneur. Since then, more cases have come to light.

Two more cases surfaced in which it was detected that the money had been withdrawn in cash by an unauthorized person. In the case of the entrepreneur, the missing money was transferred to another account via a money transfer deposit box. The bank, however, refuses to reimburse the clients until it is sure that they themselves had nothing to do with the disappearance.

Today's Prazske slovo writes about the latest developments in the search for three Czech students who went missing in Albania at the beginning of August. The paper says that the uncle of two of the students, Petr Kubasek, had decided to take matters into his own hands and, along with eight other volunteers, taken up the search himself. Four of them, including Mr Kubasek, returned to Prague on Monday night and tell the paper that the team had searched all villages in the northern and southern parts of the country, distributing flyers along the way.

The paper reports that the missing students were last seen in northern Albania. The five members of the team that are still in Albania are searching that part of the country, although Mr Kubasek tells the paper that there is not much more they can do and that they are now relying on diplomatic assistance. Michal Pavelka, his brother Jan and his girlfriend Lenka Tuckova entered Albania from Montenegro on August 17th 2001. Since then, their parents have received no word from the three students, and Mr Kubasek fears that they are being held somewhere in Albania.