Press Review

The popular revolt in Yugoslavia and the country's return to democracy fills the front pages of most Czech dailies. Petruska Susterova of Lidove Noviny wonders what will become of Slobodan Milosevic. President Kostunica has stressed that a normalization of relations with the democratic world is a top priority and has likewise made it clear that he would not hand over Milosevic to the International Court in the Hague. The only way he can justify the latter and keep the esteem of the international community is to bring Milosevic to trial in his homeland, Susterova concludes.

Meanwhile, Jan Pelikan of Pravo notes that President Kostunica has a troubled legacy to deal with. Milosevic is gone but all the problems remain, Pelikan says. The war-torn and poverty-stricken state of the nation is bad enough in itself, but primarily there is the problem of nationalism to be resolved. How will the democratic Yugoslav leadership approach the problems of Kosovo and what modus vivendi will it find with Montenegro? That will be a trial by fire for the new government and it will show whether the anti-Milosevic forces can find more in common than their anti-Milosevic sentiments.

On a related topic, Zemske Noviny argues that the Czech authorities should find the money to allow continued Czech participation in international peacekeeping forces. The paper cites three main reasons why this is important. To begin with it provides our troops with experience which no amount of training can equal. Secondly, our participation in international peace-keeping missions increases the public's trust in our armed forces, and lastly it will help the Czech Republic's image abroad, the paper says.

On the domestic front, the number one news story is of course the planned launch of the Temelin nuclear power plant. "Just hours to go," reads the front-page Lidove Noviny headline. "Temelin to be activated on Tuesday," says Pravo, reporting that the power utility CEZ needs twenty hours to start the nuclear chain reaction after getting the green light from the Czech Nuclear Energy Agency. Mlada Fronta Dnes carries a special Temelin section reporting on the twenty-year history of the plant, ever since the former communist authorities announced plans to build it back in 1979. The paper lists the pros and cons of this giant and features a mini-opinion poll among the Czech public on whether the plant should be launched or not. The Czech Statistical Office has predicted that if a national referendum were held on the issue today the vast majority of Czechs would be in favour of activating the plant and this mini-poll certainly confirms it.

The weekend has brought fresh protests from anti-globalization activists in Oslo and Paris. They are demanding the release of friends who are being detained in the Czech Republic in connection with the street violence which accompanied the IMF and World Bank session here in Prague. Lidove Noviny reports that in response to these protests a member of the government's Human Rights Council visited the detention camp for foreigners in Balkovo where the anti-globalization protesters are being detained. The paper says she found the conditions pretty harsh, resembling those in prison although the detention camp is not a prison. The detainees were dressed in prison garb although the authorities have no right to take away their clothes unless they are badly soiled, Petra Burcikova told the paper. Ten of the people she spoke with said they had been beaten or witnessed police brutality. There is no word as to how the government's Human Rights Council will proceed in this matter.

And finally, today's Lidove Noviny carries the highlights of an attention-grabbing article published in Saturday's Pravo. The author of the piece is the Prime Minister himself and it is, without exaggeration, his most vicious attack on journalists to date. In it Mr. Zeman says he has decided to end his ongoing war with journalists since they are all intellectual weaklings and degenerates whom it wasn't worth taking seriously. Reacting to these harmless idiots is a waste of my time and energy, the Prime Minister says in the piece, noting that the media has little influence on public opinion anyway.