The escalating drama regarding the Czech public service Television has been covered with consistent interest in the German press.
On 12 December, Czech TV director Dušan Chmelíček was fired and replaced by Jiří Hodač a few days later. Not liking what they saw, about 50 news editors began protesting what they saw as the politically pre-ordained appointment of Hodač. Threatened with ejection from the building by Hodač's security guards if they even so much as go to the bathroom, these protesting editors continue to occupy the newsroom in defiance.
The struggle is described in the German press as one for political power, money or both. "Czech Television crisis grows into a call for a strike," wrote Süddeutsche Zeitung on 2 January. "A struggle for power and money," wrote Der Tagesspiegel on the same day.
Die Tageszeitung (die taz) devoted a special section to the crisis at Czech Television on 3 January. They held an interview with striking ČT moderator Jolana Voldanová and wrote three further articles: "The collapse of Prague television;" "The political parties intervene" and "The guarantee of independence."
Václav Klaus's Christmas gift to Czech TV?
It is clear that this is indeed a struggle for political power— but whose? Most articles link Hodač and his chosen news anchor, Jana Bobošíková, to the Civic Democratic Party (ODS). Bobošíková had worked with Parliamentary Chairman and ODS leader Václav Klaus in the past. However, Der Tagesspiegel also pointed out in an article on 3 January, that the ODS is in a coalition government with the Social Democrats (CSSD) and that both are on the same side of this debate.
Thus, the startling conclusion drawn in die taz on 4 January proves to be insightful. The article is called, "A country without opposition." In her ongoing coverage of this event, die taz journalist Ulrike Braun concludes that Czech democracy "lacks political watchdogs." The role usually played by a strong opposition party is entirely absent.
All German newspapers have made clear that Czechs—as well as Germans—support the striking workers. Throughout the week, the number of signatures collected in a petition in support of the protesting journalists has risen. On 4 January, Der Tagesspiegel estimated the number of signatures on the petition to be about 125,000. Die taz estimated the number of signatures on the petition to be 60,000 just one day earlier.
According to the German Press, merely replacing Hodač with another director is not good enough; a new law regarding the non-partisan placement of such leading persons in the media should be instituted.
Serbs and Albanians: making friends?
The one newspaper to distance itself from this was Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, which wrote up the bare minimum on the situation in the Czech Republic. In the news from the Central and Eastern European region, they published instead an article with the headline "Negotiations bring Serbs and Albanians closer together."
The article discusses how the closing down of checkpoints by both Serbs and Albanians may show diminishing tensions between the two nationalities.
Poles still hoping...
And Die Welt on 3 January published another article on Polish enlargement hopes.
Poland expects that it will conclude enlargement talks, including the securing of a firm date for entry, by the end of this year. Poland expects that this firm entry date should be 2003, and while no one in the European Union has ruled this out, only 20 per cent of Poles believe this is possible.
But it cannot be denied that Poland is pushing ahead on the issue of enlargement and seeks support in ways and places that few other countries pursue. After Nice, Polish Prime Minister Jerzy Buzek now stores his hopes in the continuation of enlargement talks at the upcoming summit in Göteborg.
Andrea Mrozek, 8 January 2001
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Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
Die Süddeutsche Zeitung
Die Tageszeitung (die Taz)