Press Review

r_2100x1400_radio_praha.png

Well it's just six weeks to the elections here in the Czech Republic and the papers reflect that - the press is full of rather tedious pre-election analysis and speculation. Pravo and Lidove noviny both lead with news that after years of ruling out the possibility, Vaclav Klaus - leader of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats - has finally conceded the possibility of a coalition with the Social Democrats. Meanwhile Mlada fronta Dnes, which supports Mr Klaus, relegates the story to page two...

Well it's just six weeks to the elections here in the Czech Republic and the papers reflect that - the press is full of rather tedious pre-election analysis and speculation. Pravo and Lidove noviny both lead with news that after years of ruling out the possibility, Vaclav Klaus - leader of the right-of-centre Civic Democrats - has finally conceded the possibility of a coalition with the Social Democrats. Meanwhile Mlada fronta Dnes, which supports Mr Klaus, relegates the story to page two...

Instead, Mlada fronta Dnes leads with claims that former Social Democrat minister Egon Lansky was a secret police informer during the Communist era. The paper says Mr Lansky - now a Senator - features on a register of military counter-intelligence files compiled by the Communist secret police, the StB. The files, says Mlada fronta Dnes, were shredded in November 1989, as the Communist regime began to unravel.

Mr Lansky, an Auschwitz survivor and anti-Communist dissident, fled Czechoslovakia after the Soviet-led invasion in 1968. He settled in Sweden, and later worked for the BBC and Radio Free Europe. He firmly denies being an StB informer, and says he has no idea he was on the list. Mlada fronta Dnes also claims Prime Minister Milos Zeman knew of Mr Lansky's alleged StB past when he appointed him in 1998.

Meanwhile the tabloid Super writes that Petr Cibulka - the man who published a list of alleged StB agents in the early 1990s - is wanted by police for unpaid debts. The paper says police planned to arrest Mr Cibulka, chairman of the non-parliamentary Right Bloc, at a party meeting on Friday, but he failed to turn up. Super says Cibulka owes millions in unpaid social and health insurance.

Moving further to the right, and Mlada fronta Dnes reports that the centre of Prague played a host to a strange demonstration on Saturday against "Bolshevism, Marxism and social demagogy." Around 50 anti-Communists and a handful of far-right skinheads marched through Prague's Celetna street, carrying banners reading "God - Country - Family" and other stirring slogans.

One organiser - a member of a group calling itself the 'Campaign for National Renewal' - warned that Communist ideology "in its spiritual form" was spreading throughout Europe. One of his colleagues, meanwhile, told the crowd that the recent victory of Jean-Marie Le Pen in the French presidential elections was a ray of hope to anti-Communists everywhere. The demonstration failed to arouse much interest from passers-by, says Mlada fronta Dnes, apart from a few bemused tourists.

Away from politics now, to the arid desert of Kuwait and the 251 members of the Czech Army's elite anti-chemical unit deployed there as part of the U.S. "Enduring Freedom" operation. As Lidove noviny reports, Saturday brought a welcome break from the heat, boredom and dust of the unit's Doha base, as Czech pop singers Anna K and Martin Maxa dropped by to entertain the troops.

"In the beginning I was a little bit doubtful we could pull off the event, because the conditions here are pretty tough. But I'm surprised - and happy - as to how well it all went," said the commander of the Czech contingent, Josef Proks. The concert culminated in a rendition of the Czech national anthem "Kde Domov Muj", and as Lidove noviny says, everyone joined in. Not a dry eye in the house.