Press Review

The front-page headlines in today's papers all feature different stories. Whilst Mlada fronta Dnes reports on the Czech army's preparations for a possible biological attack, Lidove noviny's headline reads "Bomb threat to Prague's city centre". Prazske slovo points out that no one in the Czech Republic is currently authorised to shoot down a passenger plane and Pravo's headline points across the Atlantic where U.S. President Bush has openly declared that the United States will support Afghan opposition groups in their fights against the Taliban.

Mlada fronta Dnes writes that the Czech Army is currently mobilising its defence against biological weapons, as army representatives say that they have received trustworthy information that Osama bin Laden's terrorist followers have biological weapons at their disposal. The paper quotes Jan Petras from the army's medical service as saying that they have to be prepared for the possible use of the anthrax, smallpox and plague viruses by bin Laden's supporters. The paper goes on to say that the army has had to re-open a detection lab and quotes Czech armed forces' Chief of Staff, Jiri Sedivy as saying that such security measures are unusually demanding, but necessary. The paper says that no further information has been disclosed since there is a risk of it being used in terrorist operations.

Lidove noviny writes that the hopes of Czech citizens that they will be able to move freely across the borders within the EU, once the Czech Republic becomes an EU member, were crushed on Monday. The paper writes that the European Commission has decided to undertake no changes to its border regime after the EU's eastward expansion. Czech citizens will therefore have to continue to produce their travel documents and ID's, although all other limitations, such as producing proof that they can pay for their stay, will be lifted. The transformation of the borders between the new EU states and their western neighbours to a less formal regime will not be considered before 2006 at the earliest, Lidove noviny reports.

Today's Pravo writes that the army's Chief-of-Staff, Jiri Sedivy, has criticised the decision of the Interior Ministry and Czech Police to deploy armoured personnel carriers and elite troops outside the Radio Free Europe building to protect it from terrorists, as the United States prepares for possible military action against Afghanistan. According to the paper, Mr Sedivy has said that he would have used 'milder' methods. The police have noted, however, following a bomb threat to the building, the four armoured carriers were deployed in order to help prevent any vehicles carrying explosives, being placed in front of the building. Mr Sedivy, reacted by saying that the erection of cement road blocks would suffice in keeping out any such vehicles. In his defence, the Interior Minister, Stanislav Gross told the paper that Mr Sedivy was not informed about the degree of danger and was therefore not in a position to assess which security measures should have been taken.

Prazske slovo reports that a former border guard, charged with grievous bodily harm resulting in death, was cleared of all charges by a Supreme Court ruling on Monday. In 1986, Pavel Cada, along with several other colleagues guarding the Czech-West German border, opened fire on a man, who they thought to be a wanted Polish national who had crossed the border illegally. The victim, however, was a German man who was innocently picking mushrooms on German territory. One of the 150 bullets shot hit him and he died from his injuries before reaching hospital. Although a court in Pilsen had sentenced Mr Cada to three years in prison, the Supreme Court set him free after Mr Cada and several other witnesses had testified that it really was a case of mistaken identity and that they did not know that the victim was on German territory.