Press Review

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The twenty fifth anniversary of the Charter 77 human rights manifesto has re-opened many sensitive issues. In particular that of the so called Anti-Charter -the communist-orchestrated response to Charter 77 which many leading personalities of the time were pressured into signing. Some staunchly refused but the majority complied and the media have now swooped down on them asking them to explain their motives to the public.

In this connection, all the papers have highlighted President Havel's appeal for Anti-Charter signatories not to be hounded, and the fact that the most famous Czech dissident is unhappy with what he calls the "sensationalist" character of reports covering events of the time .

The papers comment on some of the paradoxes involved. In today's edition of Pravo culture minister Pavel Dostal says that those who bartered their pride in order to keep their positions would, in later years, occasionally lend their names to Charter 77 signatories who could not publish under their own names. Even Kafka couldn't beat that, says Dostal.

In another editorial, former human rights' commissioner and one-time dissident Petr Uhl notes the irony of the fact that while the communist regime successfully forced many of the then cultural elite to sign the Anti-Charter, it ran into a brick wall with the working class, whose interests it was supposedly defending.

The working class had little to lose, says Uhl, and so when communist party officials appeared in factories asking for signatures workers wanted them to read out loud the document they were being asked to condemn.

Since the authorities had strictly forbidden its publication, this was impossible and the communist officials walked out empty handed, Uhl recalls. For most factories the anti-charter was signed by the director only -allegedly on behalf of all employees.

And finally, the irony of ironies - Mlada fronta Dnes notes that, more than a decade after the Velvet Revolution, communist crimes are still being judged BY former communists. One has no trouble providing examples of this, the paper notes. Just a few weeks ago the former communist state attorney Karel Vas, was judged and absolved of blame by a former colleague for the sentencing and execution of General Heliodor Pika. THERE's a topical issue that deserves attention, the paper says.

Moving on to other things - there is plenty of comment in the papers about the Czech-Austrian and Czech-German disputes over sensitive WW2 issues. It is interesting to note that while political commentators generally agree that the Czech government was right to take a strong line with regard to some of the outrageous statements of members of the Austrian Freedom Party, businessmen are losing patience with the ongoing war of words, saying that if the Czech government puts its mind to it, it could wage a war of words with most of Europe.

Germany and Austria could be held responsible for their part in the Nazi occupation, others for their betrayal in Munich, others yet for their part in the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops. And finally, we could rant against Slovakia for being ungrateful enough to want to go its own way after 70 years of coexistence, entrepreneur Jakub Horak writes in a tongue in cheek column entitled "Following Zeman to war" .