Press Review

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Well it's a mixed bag as far as front pages go this morning, certainly as far as photos are concerned. MLADA FRONTA DNES features Australia's half-man, half-fish Ian Thorpe, pictured moments after swimming his way to his third gold medal in Japan, PRAVO plumps for former King Simon of Bulgaria, now Prime Minister Simon Saksoburggotski of Bulgaria, being sworn into office, ZEMSKE NOVINY has former air force pilot and now U.S. President George W. Bush shaking hands with the troops in Kosovo, while LIDOVE NOVINY features a photo of former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell, in Prague to promote her new album.

But it's Czech affairs which of course dominate the papers today, and the weekend's racially-motivated murder of a Roma man by a far-right skinhead dominates the inside pages of MLADA FRONTA DNES. The paper carries an interview with the government's commissioner for human rights, Jan Jarab, who provides a controversial explanation for the frequent failure of police and the courts to deal properly with race hate crimes. Jarab says it's because they generally sympathise with the aggressors, not the victims.

"One thing's for sure," says Jarab. "We have a very strict legal system in this country which sends people to prison for completely banal offences such as property crime, but which is extremely benevolent towards skinhead attacks. As long as the attack isn't fatal, the attackers never receive sentences to match the offences," says Jarab. He goes on: "The only reason I can see for this is that - consciously or subconsciously - the police and the courts sympathise with the attackers. Romanies are different, but the attackers are 'typical Czechs' like us" says Jarab.

And further on in the paper MLADA FRONTA DNES draws a clear link between Saturday's murder and the controversy surrounding the new strict immigration measures in place at Prague's Ruzyne Airport, to combat the number of Roma people applying for asylum in Britain. Most Czechs, it says, are in favour of the measures: after all, every country must protect itself against "undesirables." And few care that those "undesirables" are people with darker skin, says MLADA FRONTA DNES.

"Nine out of ten people in this country do not want Romanies for neighbours. Nine out of ten people make no distinction between 'peaceful' Romanies and Romanies who make trouble. They see them as a solid mass, which we would be better off without," says MLADA FRONTA DNES. "Saturday's murder should be seen as a very alarming message to ethnic Czechs. The Roma in this country do have reason to be afraid. They do have reason to flee," says the paper.

PRAVO, meanwhile, leads with alarming news from the Czech police: more and more people are drinking and driving. During random checks in the capital Prague on Friday police found one driver in four had been drinking. "Alcohol behind the wheel is one of our biggest problems at the moment," said a senior traffic policeman. And PRAVO says there's a similar picture across the country, with young drivers singled out for particular criticism.

LIDOVE NOVINY carries a scary story under the headline "Authorities Take Away Children From Parents Because of Father's Bad Genes." The case happened in the town of Znojmo, South Moravia, mainly thanks to an evaluation by a local psychologist. The paper says it's reminiscent of Nazi blood laws during the Third Reich, as the father of four was described as someone who is "lowering the quality of the Czech gene pool."

The parents, whose three children are currently in a children's home and the fourth has been given up for adoption, are now striving to get them back. But the authorities in Znojmo say there were social rather than biological factors - the Skarka family lived in a shabby flat, the electricity board cut them off after they failed to pay their bills, and moreover both parents were unemployed. But genetic experts are shaking their heads in disbelief over the verdict of their Znojmo colleague, describing it as factually erroneous and ethically wrong.