29-03-2002

One of the top stories in today's dailies is the sentencing of militant skinhead Frantisek Sobek to seven years in prison for an attack on group of civilians, which included a pregnant woman. Three of the major papers carry the skinhead's photograph, and Mlada fronta Dnes recalls shocking video footage aired on Czech TV, which showed the skinhead kicking a man curled up on the ground. The attack took place in Prague's much-frequented Wenceslas Square in 1999, during celebrations of a Czech ice hockey victory at the world championships.

One of the top headlines in today's Pravo reads that the number of poor people in the Czech Republic is on a rise. The paper writes that in spite of the fact that the country's economy is growing stronger and some people have more and more money to spend, the number of families living below the poverty level has doubled in the last four years.

Social workers say the problem, linked with rising unemployment, is compounded by the fact that many poorer families never bother to apply for financial support. The paper quotes a statistic that there are now over 11 000 families living at the poverty level, and cites such areas as the Sokolov region in western Bohemia as the hardest hit.

Poverty, however, is not a subject for Friday's Hospodarske noviny: instead the financial paper has in- depth analysis on the continuing privatisation of the telecommunications giant Czech Telecom. The paper reports that three out of an original seven investors remain in the game for large percentages of the company: two of the remaining interested companies are Orange, which belongs to French Telecom, and Swisscom. The third company remains undisclosed. The Czech government is aiming to get at least 80 billion crowns for its shares in Czech Telecom, otherwise it will consider delaying the privatisation process.

Turning back to Mlada fronta Dnes the daily is running a story on the clash between opposition Civic Democrat deputy leader Ivan Langer and Interior Minister Stanislav Gross, who has accused Langer of trying to manipulate the country's police force. Last week Mr Langer sent police chiefs across the Czech Republic a letter in which he criticised a government proposal on police employment, and presented his own concept. Mr Gross has charged that Mr Langer may well have broken a police law which forbids police from acting on behalf of any political party. Mr Langer has replied that such conclusions were absurd, and so the spat continues...

29-03-2002