15-11-2001

Most of today's Czech papers are unimpressed by last night's performance of the Czech football team against Belgium in Prague. Photos of players' faces torn with despair speak for themselves. The war in Afghanistan continues to fill the front pages of most dailies, and although behind bars, the Czech TV tycoon Vladimir Zelezny remains ubiquitous...

It's nine days since the Czech Defence Minister Jaroslav Tvrdik dropped a bombshell, saying that Czech-made L-159 subsonic multipurpose fighter jets were more dangerous for their pilots than for the enemy. Today's Pravo informs readers that the commander-in-chief of the Czech Air Force, General Frantisek Padelek, has ordered the air force to ground the 24 jets made by the Aero Vodochody aircraft manufacturer until further notice. Pravo also comments on the row which the issue has sparked between government and opposition politicians.

Mlada fronta Dnes comments on the new bill on public tenders. The paper notes that the government intends to retain a controversial clause in the bill even though it was criticized by the European Commission only a few days ago. The clause would allow the government to grant even very large contracts to companies without calling a public tender. Mlada fronta Dnes joins the European Commission in its criticism but concludes that the controversial clause is going to stay - and so too are the cunning politicians.

Lidove noviny dedicates a four-page supplement to the twelfth anniversary of Prague's Velvet Revolution on November 17th, which marked the start of the economic and political transformation of communist Czechoslovakia. Even twelve years on, there is no final version of the events in November 1989 and views differ as much as they did all those years ago. Was it a spontaneous uprising by angry Czech citizens, or was the whole thing coordinated by the communists themselves, who hoped to save their skins? The paper even looks at one rather unusual theory that the KGB, the CIA and Czechoslovak StB and Israel's Mosad actually conspired together to bring down the regime.

Lidove noviny and Mlada fronta Dnes both ask who is going to run the most successful commercial television station, TV Nova, now that its director Vladimir Zelezny is being held in custody on charges of attempting to cheat Nova's main creditor. The Zelezny family have been keeping the Czech judicial system busy - both papers carry a photo of Vladimir Zelezny's elder son, David, who was finally acquitted of rape charges on Wednesday.

Prazske Slovo follows the same pattern, committing a whole page to the notorious case of Vladimir Zelezny and reporting on David Zelezny's acquittal.

On the same page the paper continues on a similar note. The Czech Republic has one of the highest numbers of prisoners per 100,000 inhabitants in Europe. Nearly a quarter of Czech prison inmates come from foreign countries. The most numerous and problematic are Russian-speaking prisoners who tend to organize their own hierarchies in prisons. Monday's successful police intervention prevented a jailbreak masterminded by the Russian prisoners' mafia bosses, Prazske Slovo adds.

15-11-2001