02-01-2001

The continuing saga of Czech Television dominates the papers, with many devoting several pages to different aspects of the conflict, and with most editorial comment in favour of the rebels. But ZEMSKE NOVINY does warn of a risk if the rebels do eventually win the battle. They have become so involved in the whole conflict at a political level that - should they win - it will be hard for the viewer to win back confidence in their objectivity. But today's papers aren't just about Czech TV. Most front pages also find space to report on the widespread celebrations of the New Millennium around the Czech Republic - including photos of little Lukas, the New Year's first baby.

MLADA FRONTA DNES and ZEMSKE NOVINY use the New Year as an opportunity to reflect on the state of the Czech Republic today. We are now entering the second millennium of the Czech nation, writes Lubos Palata in MLADA FRONTA DNES, and just as our ancestors did a thousand years ago, we have to answer a critical question: do the Czechs have a future as a nation state? In effect this is being answered for us. The next generation of Czechs will probably live in some kind of European super-state. But Lubos Palata reckons that this does not have to be a threat to the Czech nation. The greatest moments in Czech history came in the 14th century, when the country was part of another super-state, the Holy Roman Empire.

Jiri Bigas in ZEMSKE NOVINY concludes that the Czech Republic is entering the new millennium with uncertainty. The country is in a halfway position: half way between the rich and the poor and half way between democracy and totalitarianism. He reckons that the legacy of communism remains firmly with us. People still let themselves be seduced by people offering simple solutions and claiming to hold a magic wand. And the roots of today's economic corruption also lie with the communists, who set the precedent by dividing the country's wealth among their own ranks. What the Czech Republic needs for the new millennium, writes Jiri Bigas, is wise leaders to establish firm rules as a foundation for the Czech nation in the future.

MLADA FRONTA DNES on its front page says that yesterday we witnessed a revolution in the streets, but that it passed most people by. What the paper is referring to is the new road traffic law which came into effect on the first of January. The paper commissioned a poll which suggests that most Czechs have little idea about the new rules. For example, most people think that pedestrians now have absolute and unconditional priority on zebra crossings. In fact they are only allowed to cross if they are sure that passing drivers can see them and can brake safely. Also Monday's roads were cluttered with people using their mobile phones while driving, which is now strictly forbidden, and many drivers ignored new rules that you have to use your headlights all day during the winter months. This lack of awareness is hardly surprising, the article concludes. In most developed countries such sweeping changes would be accompanied by a massive public information campaign. Here nothing of the kind took place.

And finally a short article in PRAVO suggests that President Havel's New Year speech marks a break with tradition. In recent years the President's address has consistently been full of gloom and doom, but this time - for a change - Mr Havel said that the Czech Republic was not in a state of demoralization, adding that most citizens were well capable of recognizing the difference between right and wrong. But the article adds that President Havel didn't manage to avoid controversy. His words of sympathy towards rebellious Czech TV journalists have angered some politicians, and the paper quotes the deputy head of the opposition Civic Democrats, Libuse Benesova, who argues that the president has failed in his duty to unite and reinforce the nation.

02-01-2001