CURRENT AFFAIRS Friday MAY 26th, 2000 
  A daily in-depth look at current events in the Czech Republic.
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Govt able to send troops abroad

The Czech Parliament has passed a law enabling the government to send troops abroad and approve the presence of foreign troops in the Czech Republic. Until now, such decisions could only be made by the Parliament, which was seen as an obstacle to the Czech Republic in fulfilling its obligations arising from NATO membership. Vladimir Tax has the details.
The lengthy procedures involved in approving the Czech armed forces' international missions has turned out to be a serious problem for the Czech Republic since it joined NATO, especially when the country agreed to join the KFOR peacekeeping mission in former Yugoslavia. The same procedures, however, applied to approving the presence of foreign troops in the Czech Republic. Member of Parliament Miroslav Kalousek explained:

"Under the current legislation, the parliament has to approve virtually every international military exercise that takes place on Czech territory, which is not very practical for joint training of NATO forces," Mr. Kalousek said. He added that the change was the only sensible solution.

The obstacle has now been removed and the cabinet is is entitled to send troops abroad for a period of no longer than 60 days without parliamentary approval. Parliament, however, still has the power to overrule the cabinet's decision. The new legislation will finally ensure better operability and more flexible decision-making processes when the Czech Republic is to deliver on its NATO military commitments.
Reconstruction of Orlova killing first step to justice?

Police held a reconstruction on Thursday of the death in 1998 of a Roma man from the north-eastern town of Orlova. The man, Milan Lacko, died after he was set upon by a group of skinheads and run over as he was left lying in a road. But as Rob Cameron reports, his family are still waiting for those who caused his death to be brought to justice.
The case appears to be a catalogue of incompetence and deceit, from the moment Milan Lacko was found dead in the road, to the court verdict which exonerated his attackers of all responsibility for his death.

The attack took place one night in May 1998. Milan Lacko was walking home with his daughter Denisa and her boyfriend from a local restaurant. They were unlucky enough to pass a large group of skinheads standing outside a pub. The skinheads began hurling insults and then throwing glasses. Denisa Lackova says her father told her and her boyfriend to make a run for it, saying he would keep them occupied. The skinheads beat Milan Lacko to the ground and kicked him repeatedly as he lay in the road. Then they departed.

What happened next is difficult to establish. Mr Lacko, who had been drinking and was probably unconscious, was hit by one or possibly two vehicles and killed. The police produced forensic evidence suggesting that Mr Lacko died after being struck by a goods lorry, the driver of which had failed to come forward. This version, according to the family's legal representative Jakub Polak, was invented by the police to cover one of their colleagues - an officer called Marian Telega.

According to a report today in the Czech newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes, it was Telega's car which struck Lacko and killed him. The paper added that Mr Telega had now been charged with causing bodily harm through negligence.

But it's not just the police who are under fire. The state prosecutor's office - in theory representing the interests of the Lacko family - made no attempt to charge the youths with either murder or manslaughter. The state prosecutor argued that Lacko's death was the responsibility not of the skinheads who beat him and left him lying in a road, but of the driver of the mystery van.

The case went to court, and the judge accepted the state prosecutor's argument. The skinheads were found guilty of 'racially-motivated assault leading to actual bodily harm' and given suspended sentences. They and their friends celebrated noisily outside the court building - the whole sorry affair captured by a British television crew making a documentary about persecution of the Roma minority in the Czech Republic.

Last September, following outrage from the Roma community and human rights groups, a court of appeal overruled the verdict and ordered the state prosecutor to start again from scratch. Thursday's reconstruction could be the first step towards justice for the Lacko family.
Cake Bake for Kosovo

June 1st, which is a few days off, is International Children's Day. It's a tradition for various schools and organizations to hold parties and other events aimed at giving children a good time. Olga Szantova tells us about some Prague children who will not be thinking about their own good time, but of less fortunate children living abroad.
For the second year now the lst Language School in Prague 4, on Horackova Street, is holding a cake bake, with the profit to be used for aid for the children in Kosovo. The main organizer is Ita Dungan, who teaches English at the school, and she and four girls from the school's ninth grade have come to the studio to tell us all about it.

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And I'd just like to add that you can find the address of the five schools holding the cake bake on June 1st in the current affairs section of our web-site, where you'll also find maps showing the location of the individual schools.

The Prague 4 schools taking part in the cake-bake, where cakes will be sold on June 1st and the profit used to help the children in Kosovo.
(For a map showing the location of each of the schools, click on its name.)

ZS Sdruzení
ZS Na Lise
ZS Filosofska
ZS Horackova
ZS K sidlisti

New TV station already suffering technical problems

The Czech Republic's newest television station, TV 3, launched on Thursday night. The new station replaces a previous broadcaster, Galaxie television, which folded due to financial problems. Clara Goldsmith reports on this latest addition to the Czech media:
"A new vision for television", and "Television for the new millenium" trumpeted the advertising for the latest arrival on Czech television screens, TV3. Unfortunately, the hyperbole of these slogans did not quite ring true when the station fell on its feet during its very first hours of broadcasting. The chamapagne celebrations which launched the station were overshadowed by the technical problems which interrupted the evening's news programmes, and viewers who settled down on Thursday night to watch TV3's much-hyped news reports were repeatedly distracted by a rogue image flashing up on the screen. The cultural news programme also suffered from a few technical hitches, battling with sound difficulties during its first broadcast.

It is understandable that a television station should undergo some problems during its infancy, yet even if the broadcasters smooth out the difficulties which plagued their inaugural night, the future still does not look too rosy for TV3. Its predecessor, Galaxie television, was forced to withdraw from the market due to a lack of commercial success, and there are many who say that TV3 may suffer the same fate. Commercial TV stations have found it difficult to survive in the Czech Republic - another, TV Prima is only just breaking even. Out of all of the new stations, it is only the low-brow TV Nova which has had any kind of notable success, consistently topping the ratings tables.

TV3 is marketing itself as a news-breaking current-affairs station, and plans to use its nine roving Prague reporters to make it the first on the scene. These newshounds will whiz around Prague on motorbikes, so that they catch every event as it happens. Yet, TV3 may need more than biking reporters to endear itself to the public. TV Nova keeps its viewing statistics high with a trashy selection of imported soap operas, crime thrillers and topless weather girls, the emphasis being strictly on light entertainment. A succession of news bulletins, it seems, is not what is wanted by the average Czech viewer.

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