From the Weeklies
Is the use of a hidden camera in investigative journalism ethically acceptable? - a question that is asked with increasing frequency, as Czech journalists uncover the dark side of politics. The issue first surfaced in 1994, when Sona Pajerova, a former investigative journalist for S-magazine, used a hidden camera to uncover corruption in the administration of the military where certain people had a nice business going with "blue books" - i.e. certificates of chronic ill health which are the only way young men can get out of doing their compulsory military service. She was charged with "damaging the rights of and assaulting a public official". Although the charges were later dropped, her former boss insists she should not have had to go to court at all. Most editors in chief encourage their investigative journalists to use a hidden camera wherever it can produce results. Martin Mrnka of Czech TV says a hidden camera played a crucial part in uncovering an illegal sales deal involving MIG fighter planes, for which his team won international recognition.
It also abruptly ended the career of state attorney Josef Kredba back in 1994.
The latest incident involving the use of a hidden camera is linked to the recent conflict at Czech Television, where two teams of journalists produced parallel newscasts for several days running. Rebel journalists infiltrated the ranks of the management's team and used a hidden camera to try to prove alleged links to senior politicians. Although it failed on that count, the film allegedly contained interesting scraps of information -such the excessive sums of money which the small team loyal to management was being paid to produce a very amateur news programme. The report was taken off the air at the last minute on the grounds that it was highly unethical. The President of the Commission for Ethics of the Czech Syndicate of Journalists, Barbara Osvald, is quoted as saying "the use of a hidden camera is only justified in the event of a threat to public safety". Not many investigative journalists agree, and most of them will continue to skate on thin ice - on the very margin of the law or outside it - in order to bring their readers a coup. Tyden notes that the Czech Republic is not the only country struggling to resolve this dilemma, referring to the case of the BBC's Joseph Macintyre, who with the help of a hidden camera uncovered organized crime in the ranks of British football hooligans. The hooligans ended up in court - but so did Macintyre himself, Tyden says.
A journalists' life has its ups and downs - once you're forced to while away the hours waiting for a Cabinet meeting to end, another time your boss buys you the man of your choice as a companion for the evening. Martina Dvorakova from Lidove Noviny Magazine doesn't look like she minds all the hard work as she waltzes across the ballroom in the arms of the man of her choice. "When a woman buys a man" is the title of an article few women - and few men, for that matter- are likely to miss. In Communist times, high-class call-girls were freely available for those who could afford it, but you'd have looked in vain for an agency catering for female clients. Now, of course, that's all changed. Although there are still fine distinctions, Martina warns potential clients. A companion is not a gigolo. If you want a companion for a social event -which is what Martina sampled for our benefit - call the Lars VIP agency. They promise well-groomed, well-educated and amusing partners, many of whom speak foreign languages. According to Martina you'll be choosing from a list of men from all walks of life - there are students in need of extra cash and a couple even have good jobs in a prominent bank - who are in it for a more exciting social life. You can get an athlete or an intellectual, tall or short -you name it - for 500 crowns an hour. Aged between 18 and 45, they have had to pass entrance tests which include questions such as: When was reformer-priest Jan Hus burnt at the stake? who is the current UN General Secretary? and what party is currently in government in Sweden? But don't expect any propositioning - a "companion" could lose his job for offering sexual favours. On the other hand, there are agencies whose employees offer both a night out and anything else you might care for, as they put it. And then there are the studs who work at - and I'm not joking - an agency calling itself "Arnie's bulls". Arnie really exists - he is the twenty three year old owner of the agency -a seasoned gigolo himself. A gigolo - who will come armed with body massage oils - costs 3,000 crowns an hour. So are Czech women making use of this offer? Arnie says not as much as you'd expect - only occasionally. Many of my boys just act as companions and extra money for sex -when there is any- is a welcome addition to their budget. Arnie himself claims that in the past year he has had only three commissions. Although most incoming calls are from girls around 25, most of the time they are just curious, Arnie told Martina. The agency's clientele are in the 30 to 35 age group, mostly married and very well off financially but not getting very much attention from their top-manager husbands.
In what light does a gigolo like Arnie see his clients? " I respect them" Arnie says. " They are confident, free-thinking and they know exactly what they want from life. I like that attitude".
Given the huge amount of Communist paraphernalia accumulated during the four decades of Communist rule there's not much of it left, says Pravo Magazine. But if you want to see a proper collection then your best bet is to visit a pub in Prague called -appropriately enough -Práce or "Labour" or the Mammoth pub in Unhost, a half hour's drive out of Prague . Both sport an astonishing collection of Communist relics. "Opening a pub in a town where there are hundreds of other pubs is no big deal - you need something other than good beer to attract customers," says Martin Jirik. Not being able to afford really fancy furnishings he banked on the Czech sense of humour and climbed up to the attic for anything he could dig up from times past. Little Czechoslovak and Soviet flags that people had to display in their windows on state holidays, banners from long-forgotten parades reading "We Will Fulfill The Five-Year Plan", old records with Communist marches and all kinds of idiotic and pompous sounding directives. Factories and schools were throwing away lots of the stuff - and bigger things, such as busts of Lenin and Stalin and all kinds of tacky statues could be had for peanuts at various auctions. When the regulars started coming they'd laugh and bring in stuff of their own, Jirik told Pravo Magazine. Among the things on display are an old factory banner reading "Friendship With The Soviet Union Forever", an old time-clock saying "Mining Is A Pleasure - Down You Go", and a yellow dog- eared report card showing a series of Fs, under which is a standard text reading " The organization for which this person has been educated: the Kladno state farm". Once when the guys got tipsy, they took down a uniform worn by members of the former Czechoslovak police, Jirik recalls, and went out into the street to stop passing cars. Some saw the joke and continued on their way but many stopped and tried to get out of paying a fine. It was only when the guys asked for a cigarette or some loose change for a beer that the drivers caught on, Jirik says.
Regulars even borrow some of the stuff for their own private bashes. "To wear the Communist medal means to love the Soviet Union, to unite the workers of all continents, to build peace, to be a devoted worker and innovator, to be a responsible member of the socialist farming cooperative," reads a notice welcoming you into the Mammoth. "American filmmakers love it - and it doesn't hurt us to recall how daft we were, does it?" its owner says.