09-02-2001

The general census and a growing public scepticism about the sense of it make the main headlines in Czech daily newspapers. They also report on the largest drugs haul in five years as Czech customs officers seize almost 90 kilograms of heroin being smuggled to the Czech Republic from Romania in a specially adapted lorry chassis.

The most popular Czech daily, MLADA FRONTA DNES, in cooperation with the Food Inspection Office, have conducted tests and discovered that many foodstuffs contain beef, even though this may not be declared on the labels. In its lead story, the paper writes that the it concerns mainly salami and sausage. Very surprising is that the list also includes ham salami, which of course, is supposed to be pure pork. It also quotes a food inspector as saying the Office will now conduct such tests more often amidst public fears of BSE, or mad cow disease, which have heavily reduced beef consumption in the Czech Republic.

Elsewhere, MLADA FRONTA DNES analyses the wide-spread scepticism about a nation-wide census planned for the end of February. The paper lists the main arguments against providing all information required by the questionnaires. The main objections are the obligation to fill in one's name and address, as many fear that it could lead to the misuse of sensitive personal information. According to opinion polls, Czechs in general value privacy very highly. Some people, the paper writes, also refuse to take part in the census as revenge for the humiliation they suffered on different occasions at the hands of state authorities.

PRAVO, reports that many of the census commissionaires hired to distribute and collect the questionnaires have already quit the job amidst a strengthening negative campaign against the census in the media. PRAVO quotes a Czech Statistical Office representative as saying that in some regions, the situation is becoming very serious, especially in the capital Prague where opposition to the census is the strongest. Nevertheless, most of the commissionaires are willing to face the hardship, because of the considerable financial rewards the job can offer.

On a different note, LIDOVE NOVINY devotes a whole page of its Friday issue to Czechs who have been imprisoned in other countries. According to the newspaper, Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kavan is making an effort to get these people back to their homeland so that they can serve out their sentences in Czech jails. However, Czech legislation doesn't accommodate this possibility for long sentences, such as in the case of the Czech jailed for 50 years in Thailand. And what are the most frequent crimes Czechs commit abroad? According to LIDOVE NOVINY, they are drug smuggling, trading in women and illegal employment.

09-02-2001