The Lower House of Parliament has approved an amendment to the penal code which, if approved by the Senate and signed by President Havel, could mean up to eight years in jail for spray-painters who scrawl graffiti on historic buildings. This problem has been escalating and represents a real threat to medieval sites and buildings, many of them protected by the United Nations heritage organization, UNESCO. Olga Szantova has been looking into the issue.
The law, as it stands now, imposes a maximum fine of 3,000 Czech Crowns for defacing property, but sprayers usually get a much smaller fine, if they are caught in the act, that is - which is quite a rare occurrence. As a result, the streets of Prague, as well as metro stations and trams, are covered with graffiti, much to the annoyance of visitors and locals alike.
"I don't like what they're doing, they are ruining historic buildings and monuments. And I agree with the new bill, let them go to jail for it." "That's not art, how can it be when they ruin real historic monuments and works of art. They should be punished - no sentence is too great."
"I've heard about the new law, and I agree that sprayers deserve punishment. But most of them are just kids, and they need money to buy the paint they use. They must get it from their parents and they should be punished. How come they don't know how their children spend money and what they do in their free time?" While everybody I talked to condemned graffiti on historic buildings, not everybody condemned the practice as a whole.
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