Press Review

Mourning in Spain. photo: CTK

Last Thursday's events in Madrid continue to make headlines in Czech newspapers almost a week later. Both Lidove Noviny and Pravo lead with stories about breakthroughs in the investigation of the Madrid attacks. "Police know murderers from Madrid", reads a headline in Lidove Noviny and Pravo chooses similar language: "Spain knows the names of the murderers."

Mourning in Spain. photo: CTK
On a related note, Lidove Noviny writes that Czech intelligence services are trying to push through laws granting them more powers in monitoring individuals suspected of terrorist activities. The paper writes that the secret services have the support of the Interior Ministry in their effort, while the right-of-centre opposition is against the idea.

A headline in Pravo reads "Politicians are afraid of increased power of secret services". The daily asks whether phone tapping or switching off entire mobile phone grids will become a reality in the near future. The potential anti-terrorist law suggested by some government ministers and intelligence services has divided the Czech political scene, Pravo adds that the Office for the Protection of Personal Data is also on the alert. The daily quotes the deputy head of the opposition Civic Democrats, Petr Necas, as saying that there is no need for special anti-terrorist laws. He believes it would be sufficient to amend the existing laws.

Onto other domestic stories, and Mlada Fronta Dnes tells readers to forget about child benefits for all families regardless of their income, which was one of the Social Democrats' election promises before the 2002 general election. Labour and Social Affairs Minister Zdenek Skromach announced on Tuesday that his party would no longer try and push through blanket child benefits within the coalition. The reason - there is not enough money in the state coffers. Mlada Fronta Dnes adds that the other two coalition parties, the Christian Democrats and the Freedom Union, welcome the move.

Staying with Mlada Fronta Dnes, and the paper points out an interesting paradox. Although the state has increased the salaries of civil servants, people get less money. The new wage system was meant to ensure more justice in the remuneration of teachers, clerks and other professions. But in fact, most civil servants - as much as 80 percent - are losing out. More than half of the 490,000 civil servants in the country will receive less money than last year according to the latest analysis carried out by the Labour and Social Affairs Ministry. The reason is that there is less money in the whole system, and although the stable part of the salary was raised for many people, their bonuses will have to be cut down.

Mlada Fronta Dnes also reports on an emerging business opportunity in the Czech Republic - private stem-cell banks. Mothers, who have just had a baby, can have their child's umbilical cord cells frozen for posterity. It costs several tens of thousands of crowns. But there is a catch, Mlada Fronta Dnes says. Although it is expected that one day these cells could be used to cure diseases such as multiple sclerosis or diabetes, their use in medicine is still a remote prospect. Nevertheless, stem-cell banks are trying to persuade parents that the best thing they can do for their newborns is to freeze their stem cells just in case.