The three Czech journalists who have been kidnapped by rebel Iraqi
insurgents are alive and well and could be released as early as
Wednesday, the Iraqi Culture Minister Mufid Jazairi said on Tuesday.
Czech TV reporter Michal Kubal, his cameraman Petr Klima, and Czech
Radio correspondent Vit Pohanka, have been missing since Sunday. Both
Mr Kubal and Mr Klima where scheduled to catch a flight home from
Jordan but never arrived in Prague. An Iraqi taxi driver has reported
that he was on route to Amman, Jordan, with three Czech journalists
when his vehicle was stopped by rebels west of the town of Falluja, and
the three passengers were taken hostage.
Following a National Security Council meeting, Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said that the Czech Foreign Ministry, Czech Embassy in Baghdad, as well as Mr Jazairi, who has personal ties with the Czech Republic, have been in constant contact with Iraqi officials. Several teams have also been investigating at the site where the abduction is believed to have taken place. A Czech military police force specially trained for hostage situations is waiting for orders to leave for Iraq. The Czech government is scheduled to discuss further security measures during its session on Wednesday.
The Czech Police launched an extensive road safety campaign on Tuesday, in an effort to keep the number of accidents caused by drink driving or the bad technical state of vehicles at a minimum. For the rest of the week, several thousand police officers will monitor drivers and their cars in the nationwide operation named Krystof 004. Statistics show that the number of deaths from road accidents has decreased since 2003. Czech police spokeswoman Blanka Kosinova says, it is regular operations such as Krystof, or Christopher (named after the patron saint of travellers) that help to keep these figures low. Krystof 004 was preceded by operation X four weeks ago, when 54 drivers under the influence of alcohol and 12,555 driving offences were recorded.
Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla has officially requested Czech President Vaclav Klaus to remove Health Minister Marie Souckova from office. According to President Spokesman Petr Hajek, Prime Minister Spidla also sent a letter to Prague Castle, proposing to appoint Social Democrat MP Jozef Kubinyi as the new Health Minister.
The Chamber of Deputies has outvoted the Senate's veto on a bill stating that former Czechoslovak president Edvard Benes did outstanding service to the state. Several Senators voted against the bill, saying Mr Benes did not deserve a special law in his honour. Some have questioned Mr Benes' commitment to the state, due to his passive stance at the time of the 1938 Munich agreement, which allowed Hitler enter Czechoslovakia, and the Communist take-over in 1948. The bill is yet to be signed by President Vaclav Klaus, who has the right to reject it and send it back to the lower house.
Czech citizens have been advised to leave Iraq, following the abduction of tens of foreigners, including three Czech journalists. Those who cannot leave the country should stay at safe locations, Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda said on Tuesday. The Czech humanitarian organisation, People in Need, has begun pulling its workers out of Iraq.
More than three fifths of Czechs consider it a normal procedure to give bribes in the Czech Republic, the results of a study by the GfK (Growth from Knowledge) market research institute suggest. The study included fourteen Central and Eastern European states and ranks the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the top two places, with regards to levels of corruption. Eighty-one percent of the Czech respondents stated that politicians, state officials, and entrepreneurs support each other when it comes to taking bribes but only eighteen percent said they would be willing to report any cases of corruption to the police.
Czech hockey star Jaromir Jagr has returned to the Czech Republic to prepare for the World Ice Hockey Championships. Jagr arrived at Prague's Ruzyne Airport in an upbeat mood on Sunday telling reporters he was ready to fight for a title. The ice hockey mega star began the season with the Washington Capitals but was transferred to the New York Rangers at the end of January. Czech sports commentators say that Jagr desperately wants to win a title at the Ice Hockey Championships which would help remove the bitter aftertaste of a poor season in the NHL.
Czech film director Jiri Weiss has died in the United States at the ago of 91. In the course of his career he directed 22 films and countless documentaries for which he received a number of international awards. His best known works are The Wolves' Den and Romeo, Juliette and Darkness. In 1968 Weiss emigrated to the United States where he lectured at various film academies. In 1995 he published an autobiography which came out in Czech under the name The White Mercedes.
A lingering respiratory problem has forced the former Czech president Vaclav Havel to cancel a planned visit to Canada and postpone a planned trip to the United States. Mr. Havel was scheduled to attend a panel discussion in Vancouver on April 20th that will include Nobel Peace Prize winners South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Iranian human rights activist Shirin Ebadi and the Dalai Lama. After that he planned to spend several months in the United States. Mr. Havel's spokesperson said it was not clear when the president would be fit to travel. He is now said to be working at home in the care of physicians.
There is controversy within the Czech police force over a plan to establish an official list of police informers. Police officers argue that establishing a network of trusty informers takes a long time and the existence of an official list would scare many of them away. They claim that establishing such a list would take the Czech Republic back to the communist years when the police had lists of informers as well as lists of agents. However the police presidium is insistent, saying that although it understands officers' concerns the present practice of each officer guarding his contacts is proving costly and inefficient. Whenever an officer leaves, we loose all his informers and different police units often look for informers in the same circles although there are already available contacts, the police president argued.