Press Review

The 10th anniversary of German reunification, the freedom of the media, and why historical buildings are disappearing from the tourist maps of the Czech Republic at an astonishing pace. These are some of the attention-grabbing stories in the Czech papers today. Rob Cameron and Libor Kubik join me in the studio now with a review of Wednesday's press.

Germany's reunification 10 years ago is still a front-page topic. How far has a reunited Germany progressed since 1990? A headline in today's LIDOVE NOVINY reads: One state, not one nation. The paper notes that although people in the former German Democratic Republic have made significant advances in those 10 years and the "Ossies" as they are called are more satisfied today than a decade ago, it will take at least 20 years for them to achieve a standard of living on a par with the western parts of Germany.

The paper also notes that the presence of the living symbol of reunification, former Chancellor Helmut Kohl, was felt throughout the country during yesterday's celebrations even though he wasn't present at the main celebrations in Dresden. The general consensus in Germany is that without him there would be no unity today.

Turning to domestic issues, both PRAVO and LIDOVE NOVINY question the independence of the country's public television network, Czech Television. On Tuesday General Director Dusan Chmelicek vetoed an investigative report on Sazka, the country's biggest bookmakers. PRAVO says this followed complaints from Sazka shareholders that the report was clearly biased in favour of the organisation's critics. An earlier announcement, broadcast on Czech Television, promised a deep probe into Sazka's profits which run into billions of crowns.

LIDOVE NOVINY devotes a whole page to attempts by political leaders to control media programming and reporting on sensitive issues. Deputy Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla is frustrated by the media's consistent failure to publicise political decisions made by the ruling Social Democrats and their power-sharing partners, the Civic Democrats--no matter how boring this would be for the readers. And for his part, Prime Minister Zeman has nothing but contempt for independent journalists, calling them 'the scum of society', 'halfwits and cretins', 'incompetent morons', and 'hyenas'. Just because they refuse to toe the government line, the paper concludes.

MLADA FRONTA DNES looks at yet another disconcerting domestic problem. Every year, it says, up to 50 historically valuable properties disappear from the map of the Czech Republic. Period buildings, ancient portals, old mills valued for their unique technology, all meet a strange fate. They are stolen, burned down, rebuilt without permission, or simply left to decay. An official from the Culture Ministry was quoted as saying that although roughly the same number of historical edifices used to vanish every year under communist rule, the problem now is that their owners have grown even more unscrupulous in the new conditions of democracy. They are more aggressive today and have nothing but contempt for the laws of the land, the official told MLADA FRONTA DNES.

And finally, on a brighter note, the carp harvest has begun in South Bohemian fishponds--sure sign that Christmas is coming. ZEMSKE NOVINY and CESKE SLOVO report that carp, which are a 'must' on the Czech Christmas table, are more plentiful this year and therefore cheaper than in recent years, when many families said they couldn't afford to buy carp at such steep prices. A Czech Christmas Eve dinner without fried carp and potato salad would be like an English Christmas without the pudding. The paper says live carp will probably sell at 40 crowns, or around one dollar, per kilo. Wow!

Authors: Rob Cameron , Libor Kubík
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