20-09-2001

Apprehension is the mood of today's papers, with fears of an escalation of violence, in the wake of last week's terror attacks in the United States. Fears of military conflict are reinforced by photographs on many of the front pages of US marines and Air Force personnel getting ready for action. Back home in the Czech Republic, the sense of danger is reflected in a special supplement in today's MLADA FRONTA DNES, with an unnerving photograph of a small child at a Czech school trying on a gasmask.

But HOSPODARSKE NOVINY warns of the dangers of too much fear-mongering. Czech politicians are falling over one another with ideas about how to fight terrorism, and these include suggestions that civil freedoms should be restricted and the powers of the secret service should be reinforced. Politicians should not succumb to temptation writes HOSPODARSKE NOVINY; strengthening the channels through which the state can interfere in our private lives will do nothing but harm. It could even prove seriously counterproductive. It would increase the dangers of industrial espionage, and also, the information amassed in the hands of the "good guys" could just as easily get into the hands of those seeking harm. Czechs have vivid memories of the dangers of a police state, warns HOSPODARSKE NOVINY.

Michal Mocek, in MLADA FRONTA DNES also calls for sobriety. Europeans do not like the talk of war, he says, not through cowardice, but because they are aware that terrorism cannot be defeated by military means. We should not accept the language of the terrorists themselves, who claim to be leading a "holy war" against the infidel. And he adds that we should not forget that Christianity and Islam are not far apart, despite the image we are often presented. There is far more that links the two religions than divides them, and the only way to defeat terrorism is by winning the war of public opinion in the Islamic world, writes Michal Mocek, in MLADA FRONTA DNES.

On a similar theme MLADA FRONTA DNES also carries a photograph of a controversial poster placed outside a pub in the city of Ostrava, in the far north-east of the Czech Republic. The poster depicts Osama bin Laden and beneath the photo it states: "We do not serve Arabs". The pub's manager denies accusations of racism. He claims that he is helping Arabs to observe their faith by not drinking alcohol. Local police say that they have not yet seen the poster, but confirm that the pub's manager could face charges for inciting racial hatred.

Today's PRAVO warns of weaknesses in the Czech armed forces, that have been highlighted by last week's events in the United States. The Czech Republic is one of the only NATO members to lack an elite military commando, capable of rapid intervention in highly dangerous situations at home or abroad. Should we see an international land-based operation to intervene in Afghanistan, it will require highly trained, well-equipped troops. In this respect, concludes PRAVO, the Czech Republic will have nothing to offer.

But HOSPODARSKE NOVINY paints the Czech armed forces in a more positive light. It writes that the Czech Chemical Defence Battalion is one of the most highly trained and best equipped in the world. The battalion's commander tells that paper that a Czech field laboratory could be up and running within hours, should it be required. He reminds readers that the battalion has already proved its worth in the Gulf War and in the Balkans.

And finally back to MLADA FRONTA DNES, which suggests that life in the Czech Republic is gradually returning to normal. The number of people searching for news on the Internet has gone back almost to usual levels, following the staggering increase seen last week - last Wednesday MLADA FRONTA DNES's own Website had two-and-a-half million hits - and that's in a country with a population of only ten million. But the biggest sign of normality in the last couple of days, the paper concludes, has been seen in the pubs. The TV sets, flickering through the smoke in pub corners, are no longer tuned to CNN. Instead we can see the familiar green of the football field.

20-09-2001