Press Review

All the Czech newspapers today - on their front pages - feature a photo of president Vaclav Havel sitting in front of a computer, and report on his Wednesday's on-line question and answer debate with Czech citizens. The president told MLADA FRONTA DNES that this was his first encounter with the Internet and that it had actually thrown him a little. The paper notes that in answering people's queries via the Internet, the Czech president has joined numerous world politicians who have chosen routes other than traditional journalism through which to communicate with the public.

But, the paper writes, the Czech president received more than a hundred queries within the first four minutes, which resulted in a total collapse of the Castle server which indeed lasted for more than two hours. The presidential spokesman said, though, that the president was extremely enthusiastic about the whole venture, and that he intends to continue talking with his fellow citizens via the Internet in the future.

ZEMSKE NOVINY reports on further measures taken by the Czech authorities to prevent the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease to the Czech Republic. As of Friday, some 70 tourist border check points along the Czech border with Poland and Germany will close down. The paper says that by doing so the Czech Republic is following other EU countries, all of which have been trying to restrict traffic on their borders. It is not only airports and roads that have been affected. Passengers on trains at 18 Czech border crossings, even those which are only passing through the country will have to pass through disinfecting mats. All this causes quite long delays but it's something we have to comply with to protect Czech farmers from possible bankruptcy, concludes ZEMSKE NOVINY.

"One fifth of the nation was in hospital last year," reads a headline in today's PRAVO. The paper writes that in the year 2000 almost two million Czechs were hospitalized on emergency beds in 203 hospitals throughout the country. Each of them spending on average 8 days in a hospital bed. State medical costs have risen by 6 percent as compared with 1999, up to 51 billion Czech crowns - 1.4 billion US dollars.

The Health Ministry spokesman, Ota Cerny told PRAVO that it was quite a large sum of money. He went on to say that although patients were complaining about the health care being too expensive, they use its services far too much. The paper has revealed the fact, that on a world scale the Czech Republic - along with Slovakia - are the top two countries where people visit doctors most often.

And finally, LIDOVE NOVINY reports on Wednesday's proposal by the cabinet that lone parents who are caring for children and do not receive money from their ex-partners, will receive alimony from the state. And it will be the state again, which will claim the money back from those who do not pay their ex-wives and ex-husbands.

This proposal had been initiated by a group of women MPs in the Lower House. One of the group, Social Democrat MP Jana Volfova told LIDOVE NOVINY that it was not a political issue. She had made the proposal in order to help people who find themselves in dire straits, she said. But it is not yet clear, if the draft legislation will pass through parliament, due to fierce opposition from right-wing MPs, concludes the paper.