20-12-2002

Over a million tenants will most likely breathe a sigh of relief on opening today's papers - the government's decision to freeze regulated rents for a period of three months and the promise of gradual deregulation means that their landlords will not be able to demand market prices as of January 1st, says Pravo.

Lidove Noviny notes that imposing a three-month moratorium on regulated rents has merely delayed the problem. Following a heated dispute at Thursday's Cabinet session the Social Democrats outvoted their coalition partners to impose the freeze but made no headway in reaching an agreement on the pace of future deregulation, the paper says.

Hospodarske Noviny notes that this is the first serious battle within the coalition over the Social Democrat's welfare policy, and reminds the Prime Minister that action is long overdue. The paper notes that both tenants and landlords have been living in relative uncertainty for years, and neither have been able to make plans for the future.

Another big issue in today's papers is the case of Jindrich Sitta, the head of the Czech field hospital in Afghanistan who has been charged with abusing his power and harassing employees with absurd demands and harsh punishment. While the police is conducting an investigation into what went on in the field hospital, the papers carry interviews with some of the people involved.

Mlada Fronta has an interview with Sitta himself who claims to be "tough but fair" in dealing with his subordinates. Pravo quotes the former army chief of staff Jiri Sedivy as saying that Sitta was a very tough commander. "Occasionally, it bordered on the untenable" Sedivy told the paper. If Sitta is found guilty of the harassment charges against him he could face up to three years in jail.

Mlada Fronta Dnes reports on a goodbye party which President Havel's friends - mostly former dissidents and people from the arts world organized for him on Thursday. In addition to a special concert given in his honour, they presented him with a newly published book of photographs which cover his years as a dissident and his twelve year "reign" at Prague Castle.

Many of the photographs have never been published before - and Mlada Fronta Dnes treats it readers to some mug shots of Havel the dissident taken by the former communist secret police and snapshots of Vaclav Havel at his country cottage with his first wife Olga and his present wife Dagmar.

With Xmas just days away the papers have all devoted plenty of space to practical advice on frying your Xmas carp, decorating your house and giving your teenage children the presents that are "in" this year. Whether your present is in or out is of immense importance to your offspring, even if it may seem totally absurd to you, Pravo notes. According to toy store assistants mothers are more perceptive in choosing presents, fathers often buy what they themselves like. So for those who are still undecided - a new mobile with a Lord of the Rings mobile cover is sure to be a hit.

20-12-2002