Radio Prague

| Radio Prague in English |
| News | Press Review | Commentary | Economic Report | Week in Politics |
| From the Weeklies | HistoryCzech | MediaCzech | Sportreview | Magazine '97 |
| Search |

APRIL 28, 1998


[ April 27 ]
[ April 24 ] [ April 23 ] [ April 22 ] [ April 21 ] [ April 20 ]

Pre-election campaign under way

With the June parliamentary elections drawing near, pre- election campaigning is starting in earnest. Olga Szantova has the details.

Well, the Czech voter knows now, what to expect by way of campaigning on Television and Radio and as Czech Radio's director, Vlastimil Jezek commented, I'm a bit sorry for the listeners' sake. To explain, during the past elections each political party running for parliament prepared its own Radio and TV spots, much along the line of advertisements, and the audience became sick and tired of being sold various political mottoes and slogans.

This year there were suggestions that the system should be changed and the time allotted to pre-election campaigning be used for round- table discussions between various party representatives. At first it seemed the idea would catch on, BUT the right wing Republicans and the up and coming pensioners' party flatly refused the idea, while the Civic Democratic Party, the Freedom Union and the Civic Democratic Alliance insisted that they would only participate in discussions where they could pick and choose their opponents.

Moreover, while Czech Radio backed the planned discussions, Czech Television took the stand that its moderators could not take part in any such round-table discussions, because it would be contradictory to the independence, objectivity and autonomy in decision making which is a must in their profession. Which all adds up to the final decision reached by representatives of the various political parties last Thursday.

The pre-election campaign will, once again, consist of spots prepared by the parties themselves. Listeners and viewers will hear and see them during the last two weeks before the actual elections at a rate of one hour a day, those 60 minutes being divided throughout the day into blocks no more than 3 minutes long. So much for actual Radio and TV publicity. The parties are already starting to work on their spots. They are also busy getting ready for the big day in numerous other ways.

Money, of course, is essential. And, to quote just one instance, the Freedom Union is getting a loan of 28 million crowns from the Union Trading Company. But finances are playing an important role in other ways, too. The Christian Democrats are having problems in explaining how come that in 1996, the year of the last elections, the sum they got from membership fees was nearly three times higher than in other years. Financial authorities are looking into the matter. Also under inspection is financing in other political parties, and the open question marks are already taking away some of their potential voters. That goes for the Social Democrats.

On the other hand, the Civic Democratic Party, in spite of the fact that its financial scandals, which eventually lead to the fall of premier Klaus's cabinet, have not been explained, is gaining back some of its lost backing. The voter is inscrutable. Who knows, he may even come to like the pre- election TV and Radio spots.
Committee for the Defense of Unjustly Persecuted Persons

The Committee for the Defense of Unjustly Persecuted persons came into being in the wake of a "normalization period" of political repression in the Czech lands. On Monday its 30 or so members got together to mark its 20th anniversary -in better times. Daniela Lazarova has the story.
It was a dissidents gathering at which the leading figure was notably absent. "Vaclav Havel is very much in our thoughts" former dissident and leader of the Freedom Union Jan Ruml told journalists, we have sent a written message of greetings to Innsbruck and hope to see him back in office as soon as possible."

Vaclav Havel was one of the co-founders of the Committee for the Defense of Unjustly Persecuted Persons and he himself was a constant victim of communist persecution. In fact shortly after the committee's founding, on April 27th 1978, he and five other leading representatives were submitted to a political trial and handed sentences from 2 to 5 years. Nevertheless, the committee survived through the next decade, cooperating with international human rights organizations such as Helsinki Watch or Amnesty International, and filing over 1000 official protests .

Shortly after its founding the association became member of the International Federation for Human Rights, entered under the name "Czechoslovak League for Human Rights" . Although some of its members fled the country they continued working and supporting the Czech human rights group from Austria, Great Britain, France or Sweden, all countries which did a great deal to help Czech dissidents.

Today many of these human rights activists are actively involved in the country's political life, among them President Havel,former interior minister and head of the Freedom Union Jan Ruml, senator Vaclav Benda and former head of the Czech Intelligence Service Stanislav Devaty.

In their view the Committee does have a mission even after the fall of communism - to help cleanse the interior ministry and justice system of those who actively persecuted innocent people under the former regime. Some of these judges are active to this day - a fact which former dissidents -and not only they -view with bitter disappointment.

© Copyright 1997 Radio Prague All Rights Reserved

Please send us your comments

RP Home / Radio Prague in English / Commentary


Radio Prague Internet Team

Radio Prague, Vinohradska 12, 12099 Prague 2, Czech Republic
tel (+4202) 240 94 608 * fax (+4202) 242 182 39