Battle for Czech TV continues: journalists make embezzlement claims

19-01-2001

The struggle for control of the country's public television station, Czech Television, continues, with both sides making accusations of serious financial mismanagement. Striking employees at the station warned on Thursday that large amounts of money were being siphoned out of the organisation. They have sent a letter to the Prime Minister Milos Zeman and lower house speaker Vaclav Klaus calling for a forensic audit into the station's finances. The station's Financial Director, Ladislav Paluska, said he had temporarily taken control of the running of the station on Wednesday to prevent any further losses, but denied reports of a putsch. Meanwhile the new management of Czech Television, appointed by General Director Jiri Hodac before his resignation last week, have threatened to stop all payments at the station. They described the situation at Czech TV as anarchy.

Senate rejects TV bill

The Czech Senate narrowly rejected a law on Wednesday intended to end the dispute. Senators criticised the law adopted on Saturday by the lower house aimed at diluting the influence of politicians over Czech Television, saying it did not bring the row any closer to resolution. The lower house is expected to easily override the veto since the two main parties, the Social Democrats and Civic Democratic Party, command a solid majority. If the lower house does override the Senate, the bill will then go straight to the president, who also has the right to veto it. The bill's main provision is that future directors be chosen by a supervisory board whose members are nominated by professional and civic groups, not by politicians. The lower house would, however, still reserve the sole right to choose members of the board. The strike by station employees has won massive public support. Rebel journalists claimed Mr Hodac would not protect Czech Television from political interference.