05-10-2001

The tragic fate of the Russian commercial airliner which crashed somewhere in the Black Sea while on its way from Tel Aviv to Novosibirsk in Russia dominates today's front pages and there is much speculation as to what caused the explosion on board.

The Czech Republic's role in the fight against terrorism remains a hot issue and the papers report in detail on the requirements for NATO members listed by the US government which the Czech Cabinet has agreed to fulfill.

The emergence of this new global threat requires not only a joint and well coordinated effort on the part of the democratic world but it will mean that Europe will have to take more responsibility for its own fate, says Lidove noviny. The United States needs to reduce its presence in Kosovo and expects Europe to keep its own house in order - something which it is high time for Europe to learn to do anyway, the paper says.

Mlada fronta Dnes is confident that whatever the challenges ahead the Czech Republic will meet them successfully. Our presence in the Balkans and the Persian Gulf has proved that the country's elite units are as capable as British and American forces so at the end of the day the main problem that Czech politicians will face is finding the finances for the Czech Republic's upgraded role in Bosnia.

For the time being the Czech public and media have been strongly supportive of the government's resolve to take an active part in this conflict but will this continue if and when there is loss of life - the paper asks.

The young generation's idea of war is restricted to computer games -they know nothing about the grim reality . And in the past two weeks we have seen that, faced with the real possibility of chemical or biological warfare, the public is totally unprepared and has no idea even about such basic things as the location of a shelter. However, can one really say that one is prepared for war at any time? At this point it is a question of doing the right thing and bracing to bear the consequences, the paper concludes.

Meanwhile the interior ministry is reportedly bracing for a possible influx of Afghani refugees. "Although there is no sign of this for the present, we are prepared to deal with such a crisis if it breaks out" an interior ministry spokesman told Hospodarske noviny. The paper reminds readers that during the Kosovo crisis the Czech Republic took in a thousand Albanian refugees over a period of three weeks.

Similarly as elsewhere in the world there are individuals in this country who express public approval of the terrorist attacks and many are in trouble with the authorities for doing so. There's an ongoing debate in the media as to whether these people should be charged and where the authorities should draw the line. Under Czech law supporting terrorist activities is a criminal offense - but if one can get into trouble for voicing such a view at a rally should another be allowed to get away with it at the pub - asks Pravo in an article entitled "Where does freedom of speech end?".

State attorney Marie Benesova has told the paper that drawing the line between a criminal offense and an opinion is difficult and it will be up to the courts of law to take a sensible and rational approach to each individual case that is brought to their attention.

05-10-2001