Press Review

There's only one top story on the front pages of all the leading Czech papers today: President Havel's early return from his visit to the Middle East, due to health reasons. Doctors decided he had to cut short his stay in Kuwait, and leave out his planned visit to the United Arab Emirates, even though he himself had wanted to go through with the trip as planned.

Not only do all the papers carry the story on their front pages, they also carry the same photograph of the President walking down the steps from the plane at Prague airport.

But LIDOVE NOVINY did manage to add a different angle to the otherwise obvious coverage of the event, an interview with the President's personal doctor Ilja Kotik. He told the paper that Vaclav Havel had already felt the first symptoms of pneumonia in the first country he visited, Saudi Arabia, but felt perfectly alright on Sunday.

During the night, however, he started running a temperature, and Dr Kotik, together with the personal physician of the Emir of Kuwait, decided the Czech head of state should return to Prague immediately for treatment. As for the reason for this latest occurrence of the disease from which Mr Havel has repeatedly suffered, Dr Kotik told LIDOVE NOVINY that he must have caught the virus in Prague, and that the air-conditioning in the rooms he was staying had made it worse.

For the past two or three weeks there hasn't been a day when the papers haven't dealt with the mass criticism of the upcoming census, and today is no exception. ZEMSKE NOVINY reports on the decision reached by the local council in the small town of Jindrichovice pod Smrkem, which has joined the wave of criticism and is telling the people of their town that they don't have to answer all the questions in the census form, even though it's compulsory by law.

The local council says that some of the questions amount to a breach of privacy and run contrary to the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. The state has no right to ask questions about people's property and other matters, and should the people of Jindrichovice pod Smrkem have any problems for refusing to give the information, the local authority intends to stand up for them, even if it means turning to the Constitutional Court.

The case may end there, because the district council, which is a higher authority to the town council, has declared the ruling invalid.

MLADA FRONTA DNES reports on problems in another town, Terezin, better known to the world under its German name of Thereisenstadt, the site of the World War II concentration camp. A hotel owner in the town caused the controversy, by using a photograph of the entrance to the camp in his advertisement inviting guests - who in view of the location off the town are mostly German - to use the local shooting range. Connecting a concentration camp with shooting was, many felt, in extremely bad taste, and the criticism was such that the advertisement has now disappeared from the hotel's website.

Today's PRAVO writes about the problems connected with yet another hotel, the Four Seasons, which opened in Prague on February 1st. From the very beginning the project has met with criticism from the Prague local council and from heritage officials.

The hotel, located on the banks of the Vltava River in Prague's historic center, had to meet a long list of requirements as to its shape, height, size of windows, etc. Now that it's finished, and the requirements met, many still feel that it's all wrong and doesn't belong there. The Canadian owners hope that visitors to the five star hotel will disagree.

Author: Olga Szantová
run audio