Greater openness in politicians' health since 1989

30-11-2000

The Office of the Czech President made a familiar announcement earlier this week: "President Vaclav Havel is ill with bronchitis and has cancelled all but his most pressing appointments." At least, however, the Czech public were told that their president was ill: before 1989 the health of the communist elite was kept strictly secret. Pavla Navratilova has more:

Sixty-four-year-old President Havel has a long history of illness, but even his office hasn't always kept the public in the picture. In the early years of his presidency, the public could only guess as to the seriousness of the president's medical problems; between '95 and '96 there was a strict information embargo, leading to much speculation in the tabloids. Only after Havel's serious intestinal operation in 1998 was the president's state of health accurately depicted.

Vaclav Zak is the editor of the political bi-monthly Listy. He says the public has a right to know when their politicians are seriously ill: