Prime Minister Petr Nečas has criticised the composition of the freshly appointed academic council of the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes. The leader of the right-wing Civic Democrats says it includes former long-term members of the Communist Party and opponents of the very creation of the institution, which oversees secret police files and other documents from the Communist era. The previous academic council stood down in protest at the dismissal of the state agency’s director by its now left-controlled board. Critics of the former management of the Institute say it should explore the broader history of the Communist period and not just focus on the security services.
Saturday is the 90th anniversary of the first regular broadcast by Czechoslovak, later Czech, Radio. An open day with free guided tours was held at the station’s back-to-back buildings on Vinohradská and Římská streets in central Prague from 9:00 to 17:00 as part of a series of events held to mark the moment at 20:15 on May 18, 1923 when the station launched regular broadcasts from a tent in the city’s Kbely district. Czech Radio’s flagship station Radiožurnál is set to interview 90 special guests in a special broadcast live from Wenceslas Square that begins at 20:15 on Saturday and runs for 48 hours.
The great American conductor Lorin Maazel helmed the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra at a sold-out Smetana Hall of Prague’s Obecni Dum on Friday night in what was his first appearance at the Prague Spring international music festival for 43 years. Maazel, who is 83, has been one of the world’s leading conductors for the last five decades. This year’s Prague Spring features more than 30 concerts and three opera performances. It runs until June 2.
Meanwhile, the abbot of Strahov Monastery in Prague, Michael Josef Pojezdný, has praised Mr. Zeman for refusing to appoint Mr. Putna, who is a practising Roman Catholic, professor. However, it is unclear why the abbot – who reportedly made the comments during a meeting with Mr. Zeman on another matter – has backed the president, as he has refused to speak to the media. This has led to speculation that it may be because of Mr. Putna’s liberal politics or the fact that he is openly homosexual. Academics have also been up in arms, with the rector of Prague’s Charles University, Václav Hampl, saying that Mr. Zeman would need to have very serious reasons for not naming Mr. Putna professor; otherwise the move would represent an unacceptable intervention.
Museums and public galleries around the Czech Republic offered discounted admissions on Saturday as part of International Museum Day. Many also put on workshops for children and guided tours, while some opened spaces normally closed to the public. A number of institutions, such as the City of Prague Museum and the capital’s National Museum, offered completely free admission. Museum Night events, when museums keep their doors open until the small hours, are being held in Brno; in the coming weeks other cities and towns are set to take part in the project, which culminates with a Prague Museum Night on June 8.
The trial against Tatra truck maker CEO Ronald Adams, charged with bribery, is due to begin in Brno on June 6, a spokeswoman for Brno city court said. Mr Adams allegedly offered a 20-million-crown bribe to then deputy defence minister Martin Barták in exchange for army contracts for the firm. Mr Barták, who reportedly testified against Mr Adams, has also been charged in the case.
The lower house of the Czech Parliament on Friday approved legislation that will strip jailed MPs of their salaries and other benefits. The bill, put forth by the coalition Civic Democrats, won the support of 119 MPs in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies. The legislation comes at a time when two MPs – former Social Democrat David Rath and an ex-Civic Democrat Roman Pekárek are in prison, the former awaiting trial for corruption, the latter serving a five-year sentence for similar charges. The bill will now be debated in the Senate. Lawmakers are also discussing a bill that would strip convicted MPs of their seats in the lower house.
Czech tennis player Tomáš Berdych beat world number one Novak Djokovič 2-6, 7-5, 6-4 at the Rome Masters on Friday, to reach the tournament’s semifinals. Berdych, seeded sixth, was one set down and was losing 2:5 in the second set but made a remarkable comeback, winning five games in a row. In the third set, Berdych converted his fourth match point, scoring only his second career win against the Serbian player. Berdych will play either Rafael Nadal or David Ferrer in the semifinal.
The 19th international book fair and literary festival Book World Prague is underway. The event brings together writers and publishers from around the world including US author Robert Fulghum and British writer Stephen Clarke. Slovakia is the festival’s guest of honour this year with a series of programmes dedicated to Slovak literature. The Book World Prague 2013 goes on until Sunday.
President Miloš Zeman has refused to appoint literary historian Martin C. Putna a university professor. Mr Putna, a teacher at Prague’s Charles University, is one of the president’s most vocal critics, and supported Mr Zeman’s rival for the presidency in January’s vote. The rector of Charles University has demanded an explanation from the president’s office; for his part, President Zeman said he would only reveal his motivation in court. Mr Zeman has come under criticism from some Czech politicians over his decision.
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