Press Review

MLADA FRONTA DNES features an article on its front page on a study carried out by the Czech Office for the Documentation and Investigation of Communist Crimes which shows that during the Communist regime, the secret police screened hundreds of phone calls and read tens of millions of private letters every year.

This state interference appears to have been introduced in 1949, a year after the Communists came to power, and by 1966 a total of 99 million letters had been read. The paper says that all money that happened to be included in any of the letters was also pocketed.

LIDOVE NOVINY's Michal Novotny, who spent a terrifying Saturday night with a Slovak colleague caught in a gun battle between Albanian separatists and Macedonian forces on the outskirts of the West Macedonian town of Tetovo, describes his experience on the front page of the paper.

Novotny writes that he and his colleague went closer to the conflict zone to take some photographs, when night came suddenly and fighting in the area intensified. They sought refuge in a dilapidated building and had to spend ten hours hiding on the cement floor, before they were rescued by a colleague the next morning.

Today's PRAVO devotes a whole page of analysis on who is to blame in cases where border police shot dead suspected defectors under orders during the Communist regime. Should they be punished 15 years later and be held fully responsible for their actions? The paper refers to a case where a policeman has just been sentenced to three years in prison for killing a German tourist in 1986.

The tourist was actually on the German side of the border, and the policeman claims that he was unaware that he was no longer on Czechoslovak territory when he opened fire. But how guilty is he, asks the paper, and how guilty is the regime under whose strict orders he acted? Could it be that after 15 years only a small fish has been blamed, rather than those at the top, the paper asks?

ZEMSKE NOVINY reports on unstable billboards that pose a threat to motorists, as they are placed next to busy main roads. Many of these eye-catching signs have been built alongside these roads without permission, and can be easily blown over during strong winds posing great risks to motorists. The paper adds that in the area around Usti nad Labem in Northern Bohemia, the number of unauthorised billboards has grown from zero to 400 in the past five years.

Most of today's papers feature the Czech Music Academy Awards, which were held on Saturday night. Both MLADA FRONTA DNES and LIDOVE NOVINY have a picture of Czech President Vaclav Havel holding one of the awards in his hand. Mr Havel surprised the audience when he appeared on stage to honour the memory of Milan Hlavsa, the founder of the legendary underground group Plastic People of the Universe and his close personal friend. Milan Hlavsa died of cancer in January and was inducted into the Hall of Fame during the award ceremony by President Havel.

PRAVO reports that many Czechs think that the disinfecting precautions against foot-and-mouth disease at border crossings are a joke. The paper says that most crossings are now blocked by heavy traffic and tired people forced to wait for hours whilst security measures are taken against the spread of the disease onto Czech territory.

Quoting a number of people smiling ironically at the sight of the situation at the border, the paper notes that many believe the security measures are a waste of time, as there are other uncontrollable factors, such as the free movement of birds and other animals that could bring the disease here anyway.