Press Review

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All the papers have found some way to remind readers of the 55th anniversary of the communist take-over on 25 February,1948. In addition to special supplements devoted to the years of communist rule, many connections are made with the present day.

All the papers have found some way to remind readers of the 55th anniversary of the communist take-over on 25 February, 1948. In addition to special supplements devoted to the years of communist rule, many connections are made with the present day.

In 1948 the communists took advantage of the incompetence, egoism and political skirmishes among the democratic parties. In 2003 the Communist Party of Bohemia and Moravia is profiting from the very same things, says Lidove Noviny.

Mlada Fronta Dnes highlights the influence of the present day communist party on Czech politics with a front page headline that reads "Presidential candidate Jan Sokol lobbies for communist votes". The communists could easily tip the scales in this election and they are not going to sell their votes cheaply, the paper says.

Lidove Noviny features a report entitled " Gulags in the former Czechoslovakia: eighty thousand political prisoners". In the late 1940s and early 1950s there were over forty labour and concentration camps in the country, the largest of which could house 2,000 prisoners, the paper says. Official documents from the time say that only two political prisoners died in them, but given the conditions prisoners lived in and the brutality of their jailers that is highly unlikely Lidove Noviny writes. No one will ever know how many people the regime killed and today it is difficult to prove anything.

In this regard, Mlada Fronta Dnes says it is shameful that the trial of a former communist investigator who is accused of having tortured political prisoners in the late 1940s and early 1950s has dragged on for five years with no result. The defense attorney has good reason to procrastinate because with every passing year there are fewer and fewer witnesses of those terrible times, the paper notes.

Both Pravo and Lidove Noviny have devoted plenty of space to the state of the Czech health sector following the news that the Czech government has approved a new health reform plan which is to be implemented over the next three years. Health minister Marie Souckova says she would like patients to be able to chose their physician and to be better informed about their treatment.

The president of the Czech Medical Chamber David Rath has told Pravo that although on paper the planned reform looks fine, it will very hard to implement in practice unless it is backed by the badly needed finances. Everything boils down to money, Rath says. The Chamber also advises doctors to be more communicative with their patients, he points out, but the bottom line is that waiting rooms are overcrowded, doctors are overworked and they have, on average, five minutes for one patient.

In an interview for Lidove Noviny, Pavel Pavko, the surgeon who operated on President Havel, says that a reform of the health sector is long overdue. People in this country are free only if they are healthy, says Pavko. Those who fall ill find themselves trapped in the wheels of a giant machine which frequently has no time or consideration for human dignity. Mr. Pavko also believes that a change in financing would help - starting with a better definition of "free of charge, standard care" - and what is above standard and should be covered by the patient.