05-06-2001

Well there's still only one story as far as today's papers are concerned - the continuing scandal over how more than a hundred former agents of the Communist secret police - the StB - managed to slip through the screening net in the early 1990s, and creep into new posts in the civil service. Also on all the front pages today are pictures of newly-crowned King Gyanendra of Nepal, looking far from happy at his sudden succession to the throne.

But starting with the StB screening scandal, and the right-wing LIDOVE NOVINY says the fact that a hundred former secret agents managed to slip through the net doesn't mean the screening process itself is a waste of time. The paper claims the left-wing government is merely using the case as an excuse to cast doubt on the whole process, and for very good reasons.

Several members of the Social Democrat government have had problems with screening, says LIDOVE NOVINY. Chief among them is the Foreign Minister Jan Kavan, whose appearance on a list of StB agents under the codename 'Kato' led to a fierce debate. Mr Kavan finally cleared his name in court. Meanwhile Miroslav Slouf, chief adviser to Prime Minister Milos Zeman, is a former Communist Party functionary, says the paper.

The screening law may not be perfect, but calls for it to be scrapped are motivated by other reasons, says LIDOVE NOVINY. We must welcome the fact that Czech society has made at least some attempt to come to terms with its past, by preventing discredited persons from holding high office. If an obviously guilty thief is set free because of lack of evidence, it doesn't mean we should stop prosecuting thieves altogether, says the paper.

Scandalous behaviour from American concert pianist Tzimor Barto makes the front pages of PRAVO today. The paper says Barto caused outrage at the recent Prague Spring Music Festival by pulling out of a gig hours before he was due to take the stage, without so much as a note of explanation. Organisers managed to find a last minute replacement, says PRAVO.

"In the end we're happy that Barto left. Never in my many years at the Prague Spring Festival have I experienced anything like it. Problems with soloists are not unusual. But this? Never!," says organiser Antonin Matzner.

Quite what came over Barto remains unclear, says PRAVO. He simply walked out of rehearsals at the concert hall on Friday, and no-one saw him again. "We'd just finished the second line of the Rachmaninov when he suddenly got up and said he was going for a glass of water. But he never came back," says one member of the orchestra.

PRAVO claims Barto went straight from the concert hall to a local gym. The concert pianist was apparently unhappy with the fitness facilities at the exclusive Intercontinental Hotel, and checked out of the hotel later on Friday. "He said he didn't like our gym very much, and that he would go and work out somewhere else," a receptionist at the hotel told the paper. "He was a bit weird to be honest. He was walking around in sandals with no socks on, even though it was pretty cold."

And finally bad news for Pavel Vitecek, the Brno Social Democrat member who recently admitted holding extreme right-wing views. Vitecek - who served a brief prison sentence in the 1960s for trying to start up a Czechoslovak Nazi party - has been expelled from the Social Democrats following a storm of criticism. 'We had no way of knowing,' the head of the party's Brno branch told MLADA FRONTA DNES.

05-06-2001