Press Review

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All of Tuesday's newspapers report on Monday's trial of two former members of the StB Communist secret police, who were both sentenced to three years in jail for torture during the 'Asanance' operation of the 1970s and 80s. Lidove noviny explains that the main goal of the operation was the physical and psychological intimidation of signatories of the anti-Communist manifesto Charter 77 with the aim of forcing them to leave the country.

48 year old Jiri Simak, who now owns a hotel in Prague, strangled one of the dissidents with a wet towel, knowing that his victim had heart problems. His colleague Zbynek Dudek beat the same man and poured ice-cold water on his head.

The StB men also assaulted a woman in her flat in the early hours of the morning, beat her and humiliated her. The judge described their deeds as a gross abuse of power. Their sentences were relatively high for rank and file StB policemen, says Lidove noviny. Both plan to appeal.

Under the title "Is a Czech doctor a patient's partner or master?", today's Pravo devotes one whole page to the relationship between doctors and patients. Over the past few years, reports the paper, the number of complaints about doctors has risen tenfold. While in 1998 only 100 patients' complaints were lodged, last year it was over a thousand.

Patients mostly complain that their doctors don't give them due attention, are not helpful and behave rudely. The chairman of the Czech Doctors' Chamber, David Rath told Pravo that the roots of doctors' bad behaviour might be found in the organizational structure of Czech hospitals.

The same system has been in place for up to 130 years: in large hospitals, head physicians at clinics can have up to 80 subordinates. Naturally the head physician does not know the doctors under him, let alone the hundreds of nurses he never meets. So how can he control his doctors' work? - Pravo asks.

Mlada fronta Dnes informs its readers that Prague's tram drivers have cancelled a planned strike over wage demands - they had complained that their salaries were much lower than those of bus or underground drivers. They said the responsibility lay with the deputy head of the Electric Railways and demanded that he be removed from his post.

Before reaching a compromise with their employers, the tram drivers had threatened to either blockade the centre of Prague or to refuse to leave their depots next Tuesday - something which would have caused total chaos in the capital, says the daily.

And finally, Hospodarske noviny writes that before the Czech Republic joins the European Union, it will try to lure more foreign investors in order to extend the area of Czech vineyards. The plan received the green light from the government on Monday, at a meeting in the town of Zlin, south Moravia.

The region is the main wine-growing area in the country. However, says the daily, the government's plan came under a barrage of criticism from the shadow agriculture minister, Miloslav Kucera, who asks why it must be foreign wine- growers, not Czech ones, who extend the vineyards and ensure a better grape harvest?