Press Review

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The front pages of all the newspapers today carry photographs of rejoicing Czech ice-hockey players, who beat Slovakia 2-0 on Thursday, and therefore proceed to the semi-finals of the world championships. Other top stories include a fall in the unemployment rate to the lowest level since 1999, and a plan to cut the salaries of members of parliament and government proposed by Labour and Social Affairs Minister Vladimir Spidla.

Today's LIDOVE NOVINY comes in a brand new, colour layout. As the editor-in-chief writes in an editorial, the paper aims to reach the same level as that of leading modern European newspapers, while maintaining the tradition of the oldest Czech daily. The paper also devotes a page to document its record of reporting on historic milestones since 1893.

Today's PRAVO reports that the government is going to help several defence companies that have found themselves on the verge of bankruptcy. The cabinet decided to grant these companies military contracts worth several hundred million CZK, without calling a public tender. The paper quotes government sources as saying that these companies are of strategic importance to the Czech army, and therefore must not be allowed to go under.

MLADA FRONTA DNES alleges that a project to connect all Czech primary schools to the Internet has been seriously delayed due to poor decision-making on the part of Education Ministry officials. The newspaper has also found out that the head of the team responsible for the project travelled to the United States earlier this year and his trip was paid for by Microsoft. The company makes no secret of the fact that it is interested in participating in the multi- billion crown project.

Also, MLADA FRONTA DNES questions the qualification of another man on the team who coordinates the work of the external experts. As the paper discovered, until recently, he ran a firm selling fork lifts and car batteries and had no experience in the field of IT.

The business daily HOSPODARSKE NOVINY writes that the Czech Republic's capital Prague is lagging behind comparable European cities due to a lack of office space. Experts estimate that Prague needs en extra 5.5 million square meters of modern office space. This means that there is huge room for investment, and Prague constitutes the dominant part of the Czech market in this respect.

ZEMSKE NOVINY analyse the situation on the Czech shoe market. The paper points out that cheap, low- quality shoes from East Asia cannot compare to local products and damage not only consumers, but also Czech producers and the treasury, because importers declare prices that are much lower than the real value. The government has therefore issued a directive on unit prices of shoes to give customs officials a tool to fight this wide-spread fraudulent practice, and protect local shoe-makers.