The annual One World festival of human rights documentaries gets underway in Prague on Wednesday night. Described by organisers as the biggest event of its kind in Europe, it will this year feature over 100 films from 30 states around the world. The opening film Green Days focuses on the aftermath of last year’s disputed presidential election in Iran, and the Czech NGO which runs the festival, People in Need, will present a human rights award to two Iranians serving prison terms for opposition activities. After eight days of screenings in the capital, the One World festival will move on to 29 other Czech cities and towns.
The Interior Ministry has received 21 complaints so far this year from Czech drivers who said they had been harassed by the police in other states during border controls. Most of the cases involved police in the German state of Bavaria and in Austria. The Czech minister of the interior, Martin Pecina, is planning to hold talks on the matter with his German and Austrian counterparts. Some Czech drivers say they have been subject to excessive controls by border police in neighbouring states since border posts were closed with the Czech Republic’s accession to the Schengen zone at the end of 2007. The number of checks reportedly increased at the start of this year after a change in Czech law which sets the amount of various drugs people can possess without facing criminal prosecution.
MPs from the Green Party hung a Tibetan flag from a window at the lower house of the Czech parliament on Wednesday morning in support of human rights in the disputed territory. The Greens also placed a Tibetan flag on their benches in the Chamber of Deputies as part of an international day of solidarity with the people of Tibet, which was annexed by China in 1959. Senator Vlastimil Sehnal of the Civic Democrats hung the flag from a window in the upper house. However, neither house of parliament took part in the protest as institutions. A motion to raise the Tibetan flag in the Chamber of Deputies itself was not even debated, after the left wing parties voted to reject including it on the agenda of a lower house session. Over 350 town halls around the Czech Republic also flew the flag on Wednesday, following a tradition of recent years.
The Swiss rock band Young Gods performed acoustic versions of songs from throughout their 20-year-plus career in a show at Prague’s Archa theatre on Tuesday night. The group, who are regarded as pioneers of industrial and electronic music, brought the same show to the city’s Akropolis for two nights last year.
Officials in Prague are considering transferring control of a controversial city card system to a newly established company, the newspaper Mladá fronta Dnes reported. The Opencard, which can be used as a travel pass and for some other services, has proven controversial, with accusations that it cost the capital far more than it should have done. Mladá fronta Dnes said the Town Hall may hand the running of the Opencard system to an especially created firm under Prague’s transport authority. On Tuesday police removed documents from offices at Prague Town Hall, two months after an opposition councillor filed corruption charges in connection with the system. Three audits have been carried out, uncovering numerous shortcomings. The Opencard project cost the city CZK 800 million (over USD 42 million) but has not made any profit.
The American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic wants Czech politicians to commit to fighting corruption in the country, Hospodářské noviny reported on Wednesday. The newspaper said the business association would put forward a radical new law on public tenders ahead of general elections in May. The head of the US Chamber of Commerce, Weston Stacey, said it would call on Czech politicians to pledge to adopt the legislation within three months of the formation of the next government; Mr Stacey said that would prove they were serious in the fight against corruption. The American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic includes around 500 firms, including Microsoft, Philip Morris and IBM.
A gala evening in honour of the world renowned Czech ballet dancer Daria Klimentová is being held at the National Theatre in Prague on Wednesday night. Klimentová, who has been prima ballerina at the English National Ballet in London for 13 years, will perform in public for the 1000th time at the tribute event. There will be a repeat performance at the National Theatre on Thursday.
Critics of the Social Democrats have hit back at the party’s leader Jiří Paroubek after he said functionaries would take photographs of opponents at election meetings to see whether the same faces appeared at rallies in different parts of the country. The Social Democrats say if they do spot the same faces in various places that will be evidence of planned opposition and they will post the photographs on the internet, a practice they say is already employed by rivals the Civic Democrats. Many young people have reportedly reacted by posting pictures of themselves with their middle fingers raised on an anti-Paroubek page on the social networking website Facebook. Last year Social Democrat representatives were pelted with eggs on the hustings on several occasions.
The minister for human rights and minorities, Michael Kocáb, has offered
to resign from the caretaker Czech government following allegations about
his private life. Mr Kocáb handed a letter of resignation to Prime
Minister Jan Fischer on Wednesday, hours after a tabloid newspaper
that the minister was having an affair with his spokeswoman. However, Mr
Fischer said he was not at the present time minded to accept the
resignation; he said he wanted to speak to Mr Kocáb personally about the
Michael Kocáb, who was nominated to the cabinet by the Green Party, also served as human rights minister in the previous Czech government. A rock musician by profession, in the early 1990s he headed the government commission that oversaw the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Czechoslovakia following the fall of communism.
Vladimír Růžička has said he will quit as coach of the Czech ice hockey team after the World Championships in Germany in May. His announcement came after the Czech Republic were knocked out of the Winter Olympics at the quarter-finals. Růžička, whose contract expires at the end of the season, said after two years at the helm it was time to let somebody else take over. The former star player is also manager of the club Slavia Prague.