Press Review

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The continuing saga of Czech Television still dominates the headlines of the Czech papers. All the newspapers also report on Thursday's bank robbery in Prague, when a Russian-speaking man shot dead one of the bank's clients and seriously injured a second.

MLADA FRONTA DNES devotes half a page to an alarming analysis of the growing level of violent crime in the Czech Republic - although overall crime figures are stagnating. The paper quotes police officers as saying there have always been cases involving extreme brutality, but their numbers are growing. Even more worrying, it seems the public is becoming increasingly indifferent towards violent crime.

The head of the criminal police, Ladislav Kaderabek, told MLADA FRONTA DNES that the worst thing was the growing brutality of juvenile delinquents. He attributes it to the influence of violent TV programmes and movies.

ZEMSKE NOVINY speculates that the strike by Czech Television staff may end on Monday. On that day, the acting director of the station, Vera Valterova, is expected to announce whether she will remove Jana Bobosikova and Jindrich Beznoska, two controversial appointments to senior managerial posts made by Jiri Hodac, the general director who was forced to resign after just three weeks in office. A spokesman for the rebel newscasters told ZEMSKE NOVINY that the removal of the two would almost certainly mean an end to the strike.

According to HOSPODARSKE NOVINY, the crisis around Czech television has shaken the political scene. The senior opposition Civic Democrats, who supported the unfortunate director, Jiri Hodac, have lost five percent in the opinion polls. On the other hand, backing the rebels gave a boost to the Four-Party Coalition, which would win a general election if were held tomorrow.

Today's PRAVO reports that the Czech Army has virtually no usable parachutes because new ones that it received under a controversial deal have been declared dangerous by experts and one member of a Czech special forces unit died after his parachute failed to open. The army now wants its money back from the manufacturer, which won the tender even though it had never produced parachutes before.

And finally, LIDOVE NOVINY informs its readers that the only remaining state-controlled bank, Komercni banka, laid off more than 20 percent of its employees in 2000, cutting their number to 11,000 in a run-up to planned privatisation this year.

The bank's General Manager, Radovan Vavra, told the paper that he saw no reason for further redundancies. Vavra also expects the state to sell its 60 percent stake in the loss-making bank for more than one billion USD, a price that exceeds the expectations of independent analysts.