Press Review

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The papers are still full of stories of the escaped convict who has now successfully eluded the police for four days. Slovo's front page shows dozens of police officers combing the woods in the vicinity of the maximum-security prison from which he escaped. Mlada Fronta Dnes brings readers further disturbing news about the goings on within the prison, home to the country's worst criminals. It says that there could easily have been two escaped convicts instead of just one, since another dangerous killer serving a life sentence had actually been in the escapee's cell helping him to get away. The guard who permitted this was allegedly told the two prisoners would be playing chess.

Meanwhile, Lidove Noviny says the escape of this dangerous killer has re-opened the debate on whether on not to re-introduce the death penalty. The paper notes that whenever a particularly gruesome or shocking crime takes place, or a dangerous convict escapes, public opinion swings in favour of re-introducing the death penalty, and the results of a survey conducted by the IVVM confirm this. 61% of Czechs are in favour of re-introducing it; 26% are against. Those who are against generally base their arguments on judiciary murder, which occasionally happens even in democratic countries. Those in favour point out that no matter how many murders the escaped convict commits at this point, his punishment will not get any worse.

Another front-page topic is the renewal of border blockades by Austrian anti-nuclear activists. Mlada Fronta Dnes carries an editorial entitled: "The unnecessary war with Austria". Analyzing the outcome of talks between the two countries' heads of government, news analyst Lubos Palata notes that, put crudely, it was a diplomatic victory for Czech Prime Minister Milos Zeman. The alleged "progress made" was little more than a series of concessions from Austria, though the Czech Prime Minister deserves praise for allowing his colleague a "face-saving" gesture. However, one must ask oneself why the Czech government did not initiate such a meeting earlier. If it had, it could have spared both itself and the country a lot of problems; we could have avoided this unnecessary war with Vienna, the analyst concludes.

Away from politics, Zemske Noviny reports that since the Czech capital missed out on European No-Cars Day this year--due to the fact that it coincided with the September session of the IMF and WB held in Prague--a number of civic initiatives have decided to appeal for an "unofficial" No-Cars Day this Friday. However, the idea has received very little publicity, and when the daily asked several drivers picked out at random how they'd be getting to work of Friday, the answer was the inevitable "by car of course". Having said that, it is not a question of greater publicity. The official No-Car day always gets plenty and it makes no noticeable difference to the congested streets of Prague.

And finally, in its gossip column Slovo reports that Britain's Prince Charles faced a serious problem on his three-day visit to the Czech Republic. The royal visitor is said to have been put out by the lack of his favourite Hellman's mayonnaise. A large jar of Hellman's was promptly sent out in the diplomatic bag so the Prince could enjoy his favourite egg and mayo sandwiches, Slovo writes, citing a DPA newsagency report. Apart from raising a laugh, the story will probably leave a great many Czechs wondering what on earth they have been consuming from the jars labeled Hellman's Mayonnaise that local shops are crammed with.