Press Review

The main story in the Czech papers today is, without a doubt, the demise of the opposition Four Party Coalition, split over financial problems plaguing one of its members, the Civic Democratic Alliance. Alliance leader Michal Zantovsky, former Czech ambassador to the U.S., is shown photographed in both Mlada fronta Dnes and Pravo, trying to negotiate demands for his party at a Thursday press conference.

But Thursday evening dashed any plans Mr Zantovsky may have had for saving the coalition, as fellow members the Christian Democrats decided that the Civic Democratic Alliance had to go. The party is certainly over for the Four Party Coalition, at least in its form to date...

And if the latest political scandal has not put you on edge, one story in Mlada fronta Dnes just might: the paper is running a story on children in the Czech Republic who are committing more and more serious crimes. The daily focuses on the case of three fourteen year old boys who stole hundreds of thousands of Czech crowns, and used weapons to rob an old lady.

The paper also quotes police statistics that reveal that juvenile robberies rank in the thousands. What's more, last year saw 245 armed juvenile robberies, 5 juvenile rape cases, and 3 juvenile murders. The problem, Mlada fronta Dnes writes, is that juvenile offenders are never really punished, because their cases are suspended due to their age.

The paper goes on to quote police president Jiri Kolar as saying the problem of rising juvenile crime lies in the fact that parents have less and less time to raise their kids. Police spokeswoman Ivana Zelenakova is also quoted, saying that parents' negligence in juvenile criminal cases is very difficult to prove: concrete evidence, she says, would force criminally-negligible parents to serve their child's sentence in their stead.

Speaking of jail, one person who must certainly be happy to be out of prison as he awaits trial is Ales Rozehnal, the lawyer for Czech TV magnate Vladimir Zelezny. Mr Rozehnal spent the last 85 days remanded in custody after a judge originally ruled he might influence witnesses or even flee the country. Now a new ruling has confirmed that the danger has passed, opening the way for 10 million crowns or some 280,000 U.S. dollars to spring the lawyer's bail.

Mr Rozehnal is shown on the cover of Lidove noviny looking calm and unruffled after his release. According to the paper, he spent his time in custody reading and playing chess.

Moving on now to world affairs, Hospodarske noviny, the only major paper which does not lead with either Mr Rozehnal or Mr Zantovsky this Friday, features a story on the Czech Republic's lack of progress in the fight against terrorism.

Hospodarske noviny says that while the U.S. and other countries have already enforced strong new anti- terrorist measures, Prague is lagging far behind. According to the daily, the U.S. has begun adding fingerprint records to personal ID, has tightened controls on religious extremists, and has begun doing checks on suspicious bank accounts , measures parliament in the Czech Republic has not passed. The paper quotes Interior Ministry spokeswoman Gabriela Bartikova as saying the government is considering a project at the moment, titled "National Action Plan in the Fight Against Terrorism", but Hospodarske noviny writes the country is moving at a lethargic pace.

Hospodarske noviny commentator Marie Volkova is particularly critical, indicating that in the Czech Republic a snail's pace is no surprise: after all, Miss Volkova writes, it took the Czech Republic almost five years to acknowledge the crimes of communism, why rush in the fight against terrorism?