Press Review

With the annual IMF/World Bank session in Prague rapidly approaching--it takes place in the last week of September--the press is delving for details that could add zest to traditionally boring economic and financial matters. CESKE SLOVO reports that, outrageously, one of the organisers of anti-globalisation protests that will coincide with this gathering of top world bankers is none other than Mr Ludvik Zifcak, a communist secret police agent provocateur, who played a dead student in Prague on November 17th, 1989, during a peaceful student march whose brutal dispersal by the security forces de facto started Czechoslovakia's Velvet Revolution. The paper notes that Mr Zifcak's United Front, an obscure leftist group, has been granted permission to stage protests on the territory of Prague's Second District as their application was filled in correctly. CESKE SLOVO reports that the Prague authorities have accepted around 180 applications for permission to stage anti-globalisation protests.

Czechs surely could draw some inspiration from proverbial German thoroughness, today's LIDOVE NOVINY suggests in the wake of the harsh sentences meted out yesterday in the east German city of Halle against three skinheads, convicted of murdering a man from Mozambique in June. The 24-year-old leader of the gang was sent to jail for life, his two 16-year-old accomplices were each given nine years--one year short of the maximum juvenile sentence. Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder called the court ruling an appropriate punishment for an abominable crime. The Czech paper praises German investigators for their enviable efficiency and complains that, in contrast to the swiftness of the procedures in Halle, Czech courts often exercise strange restraint in dealing with racially motivated cases. The situation often resembles something from Stephen Leacock: You shoot a servant and get away with a fine for disturbing the peace.

PRAVO relates the sad story of two brothers from the West Bohemian town of Kynsperk nad Ohri. Twelve-year-old Dusan and nine-year-old Stanislav ran away from their grandmother, who for more than a year made them toil from early morning till late in the night without giving them enough food. They wound up in a children's home, hungry, dirty, in torn clothes, with bleeding sores on their hands. Their 63-year-old grandmother, who the boys stayed with after their parents were sent to prison, was taken into custody yesterday on charges of cruelty to children. The woman worked at home producing metal coils. But all the work was actually done by the two boys, who had to get up at four in the morning, work till seven, go to school and then back to work till midnight. PRAVO quotes a district investigator as saying their grandmother had often beaten her charges, never looked after their hygienic needs and scarcely ever fed them properly. "Why, they were my little helpers," the wicked woman defended herself to the police. A psychologist told PRAVO that both boys were probably scarred for life, both emotionally and physically.

And finally, this idyll from the Czech political establishment. Reacting to the plethora of public opinion polls that appear almost daily in the Czech media, MLADA FRONTA DNES's popular cartoonist Vladimir Rencin sketched a self-complacent politician lounging in an easy chair, reading a newspaper and saying, evidently absolutely pleased with himself and the ways of the world: "See how well it goes! I ranked 684th when I started, and now I'm 675th!!!"