15-12-2000

A smiling George W. Bush graces the front pages of almost all the Czech papers today, and the papers are full of speculation about what the new America will be like. They nearly all point to fears in Europe that the United States could be returning to a period of greater isolationism, but MLADA FRONTA DNES does offer words of reassurance. It points out that eight years ago commentators were saying exactly the same when Bill Clinton came to power.

Meanwhile today's PRAVO has fears on the domestic front, this time concerning the future of Czech Television. Following the sacking of Czech TV's boss, Dusan Chmelicek, the paper speculates that what is at stake is nothing less than democracy itself. It argues that the Television Council, that oversees Czech TV and was responsible for the sacking, is politicized to a dangerous degree, and is stifled by the opposition agreement, which keeps the Social Democrats in power, but makes them dependent on the opposition Civic Democrats for any major decision. It calls on the four Social Democrat appointees in the council to be brave, and to act according to their own convictions, rather than on the basis of political deals, in appointing the new TV chief.

As passions remain high over the future of the Temelin nuclear power plant, MLADA FRONTA DNES looks eastwards, with a special report to mark the closure of the last reactor at Chernobyl. It points to a paradox: that most people in Ukraine itself are opposed to the closure--above all, those who actually worked at the plant at the time of the 1986 catastrophe. Chernobyl is so closely linked to their lives and their fate, that they feel a strange emotional attachment to the plant, writes MLADA FRONTA DNES.

LIDOVE NOVINY comments on the conditional jail sentence and two-million-crown fine imposed on Michal Zitko, for publishing a Czech-language edition of Mein Kampf. Jiri Fledor writes that we shouldn't be inconsistent, and that if we want to limit freedom to publish, then the works of Lenin and Stalin should also be banned from the bookshelves, along with the various periodicals produced by the far left. He argues that in today's Czech Republic communist propaganda is more dangerous than Hitler's racist diatribe, because there are still hundreds of thousands of people in the country who see old-style communism as the path to a brighter future. Mr Zitko, he concludes, published Mein Kampf with the simple motive of making money, but the Communists are still out there trying to win souls.

And staying with LIDOVE NOVINY; with the last-minute Christmas shopping spree well under way, the paper looks at the growing popularity of out-of-town hypermarkets. It points to a poll suggesting that two thirds of Czechs prefer to do their shopping at the big international supermarket chains--and this in a country where supermarkets didn't even exist until a few years ago. People are also becoming more choosey about what they buy, and increasingly are willing to pay more for higher quality. The small corner shops and improvised market stalls, that popped up everywhere after the fall of communism, are rapidly losing trade.

15-12-2000