23-02-2001

Not surprisingly, the massive snowfall throughout the country has made the front pages of all the major Czech dailies today. And also not surprisingly, everybody seems to have been completely surprised by heavy snow at the end of February. The MLADA FRONTA DNES top headline reads "Snow And Wind Paralyse Country".

The Czech Republic's main motorway - which runs from Prague to Brno - was completely blocked in several places not only by the snow, but also by the cars stuck in it. Drivers, lulled into a false sense of security by the relatively warm weather of the past weeks, didn't have winter tyres or snow chains. Many drivers were stuck in their cars for hours, and with their petrol running out they couldn't even keep their heaters switched on. Snow ploughs weren't much use either, because the wind was so strong it kept blowing the snow back on to the road.

The huge snowfall was, above all, a major calamity for cars and trucks, and MLADA FRONTA DNES publishes many photographs to prove that point. But it does have one single, small picture of a child skiing - just to prove that it really is an ill wind that blows no good.

Today's PRAVO devotes considerable space to National Gallery Director Milan Knizak, who was involved in a minor tussle with one of the paper's reporters on Wednesday. At the end of the interview, Mr Knizak asked to have the text authorised before it went to print, but when PRAVO's Alexander Kramer refused, Mr Knizak grabbed the journalist's tape recorder. The struggle that followed only ended when a policeman was called and took the National Gallery director down to the station for questioning.

PRAVO quotes the reactions of politicians from various parties, raising the question of whether Milan Knizak, famous for his controversial art and non-conformist attitudes, really is the right person to head the National Gallery. Culture Minister Pavel Dostal told the paper he was waiting for the official results of the investigation before he comments on the case. Meanwhile, the reporter Alexander Kramer has filed charges.

For days now Czech papers have been reporting on the forthcoming census, and today is no exception. Officials have been delivering forms to households since Thursday, and in spite of all preparations, some problems have surfaced.

HOSPODARSKE NOVINY reports from the North Moravian town of Olomouc that the town hall was 20,000 forms short when it distributed them to the census gatherers and had to print them out at its own cost. The regional head of the Statistical Office says he doesn't understand what could have happened, since Olomouc has 103,000 inhabitants, and the town hall received an extra 20,000 forms above that number.

But shortcomings of this kind are only a minor problem, the biggest being many people's opposition to the censusas such, and to some of the questions asked in it. In today's LIDOVE NOVINY, Protestant priest Milos Rejchrt writes that he does not share fears that the information gathered could fall into the wrong hands and be misused.

For many years the secret police and other institutions knew practically everything about each and every one of us and we lived with it. Now the state and sociologists need basic information about us and the value of gathering that information is much higher than any threat of it being misused, Father Rejchrt tells LIDOVE NOVINY.

23-02-2001