02-03-2001

Whilst only two days ago all front pages welcomed the arrest of the President of the Czech-Moravian Football Association, Frantisek Chvalovsky, who has been charged with large-scale fraud, today's papers feature him unshaved but smiling from ear to ear after his release on bail on Thursday. Nevertheless, neither PRAVO, with its headline "Chvalovsky bought himself out of jail", nor MLADA FRONTA DNES in which Chvalovsky is interviewed fairly aggressively, hide their skepticism or dissatisfaction with his release.

LIDOVE NOVINY's headline features the summoning of Vladimir Zelezny, the director of TV Nova - the Czech Republic's most successful private TV network - to a hearing at New York's District Court regarding an account held by Mr. Zelezny at the U.S. bank, Citibank. This comes in reaction to a ruling by the Arbitration tribunal in Amsterdam, which concluded that Mr. Zelezny breached a contract with the American company, CME a key investor in TV Nova seven years ago, and ordered him to pay CME around one billion Czech crowns, or 27 million U.S. dollars.

On a related note, the main story in today's HOSPODARSKE NOVINY reports on a proposal made by the majority of the ruling Social Democrats and the opposition Civic Democrats to assure that broadcasting companies that have not broken the law get their broadcast licenses renewed automatically. The article notes that the Minister of Culture, Pavel Dostal, opposed the proposal, as he did not want Vladimir Zelezny and the other owners of TV Nova to have their positions secured for many years to come. The paper also quotes other MP's, who note that the price for obtaining a broadcast license should be increased, and given to the highest bidder, and not like the case more than seven years ago when the commercial station, TV Nova, received its license for free.

"The Czech Republic defends itself against foot-and-mouth disease" reads a headline in today's ZEMSKE NOVINY. The paper says that Belgium, Holland, France, and Portugal have taken rapid precautions to avoid the spread of the disease from the British Isles. Now, the Czech Republic has finally joined them in taking action. At Prague's Ruzyne airport, for example, all luggage from Great Britain is checked, and all passengers coming from Great Britain are asked not to bring any smoked goods or meat into the Czech Republic.

The use of vaccines against foot-and-mouth disease was stopped in 1991, and now Czech farmers are desperately trying to obtain vaccines, although the paper quotes the spokesman for the Czech State Veterinary Authority, Josef Duben, as saying that for now, the Czech authorities has no plans to introduce mass vaccination, as this procedure is too expensive. However, the paper says that the Minister of Agriculture, Jan Fencl, announced on Thursday that the veterinary law entitles all farmers affected by the foot-and-mouth disease to full compensation for their losses.

MLADA FRONTA DNES reports on the plea from desperate butchers not to give up on beef. The paper says that as a result of the fear of mad cow disease, the consumption of beef has dropped by almost 50%, and has forced Czech meat processors to start a promotional campaign which not only includes advertising but also rather expensive testing. It quotes Pavel Smetana from the meat processor Krahulik, who says that tests have been costing his company some 100,000 Czech Crowns, or about 2,700 U.S. dollars a week.

02-03-2001