29-01-2004

Tony Blair's exoneration by the Hutton inquiry makes front pages on all the Czech dailies today - "Blair triumphs" reads the headline in Mlada Fronta Dnes. Also making headlines: proposals by the opposition Civic Democrats for a "TV tax" to replace the existing licence system, and news that the American company Monsanto has been given the go-ahead to test a new type of genetically-modified corn in the Czech Republic.

Tony Blair, photo: CTKTony Blair, photo: CTK And it's that story we start with. Hospodarske Noviny says the Czech authorities have just taken the biggest step towards allowing GM foods to be grown in Czech fields. Monsanto, the world's leading biotech firm, has received permission from the Environment Ministry to begin testing something called Bt corn.

Agricultural Minister Jaroslav Palas tells the paper he has no intention of blocking GM foods, but will keep them under control. Efforts by Greenpeace to persuade the government not to give Monsanto the green light came to nothing, says Hospodarske Noviny. There's no proof that GM food is dangerous, says the organisation's Vaclav Vasku, but neither is there any proof that it's safe.

Moving on, and Lidove Noviny reports today that the opposition Civic Democrats are calling for the country's public TV broadcasting to be funded by a tax rather than a licence fee. At present households are supposed to pay a 75-crown monthly licence fee if they own a television. The Civic Democrats want everyone over the age of 18 to pay 75 crowns each month, regardless of whether they have a TV or not.

The party says the problem with the current system is that more law-abiding citizens are paying for those who cheat, says Lidove Noviny. Only 75 percent of households pay their TV licence fee, even though TV ownership is around 99 percent. The proposal has been welcomed by the director of Czech Television, Jiri Janecek.

One year to the day after Vaclav Havel stepped down as president after a 13-year tenure at Prague Castle, many of the papers ask - was Havel a good president? Mlada Fronta Dnes put that question to a number of politicians, artists and religious figures, and received a unanimous reply: Yes, says everyone from Prime Minister Vladimir Spidla to Petr Necas, deputy leader of the Civic Democrats.

Lidove Noviny even publishes a special supplement today called "Havel - One Year After," showing a smiling former president posing in front of his swimming pool at his holiday home in Portugal. Inside photos show Mr Havel with personalities ranging from the Dalaj Lama to George W. Bush.

29-01-2004

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