Around 5,000 doctors and other health professionals protested against the policies of Health Minister David Rath on Prague's Old Town Square on Friday. They called for the sacking of Mr Rath, saying changes he wants to introduce would harm patients and return the Czech health care system to pre-1989 standards. The doctors say they fear the privatisation of their practices; they chose this date for their protest because it is the eve of the anniversary of the 1948 Communist takeover known as "victorious February".
Meanwhile, fire fighters say they uncovered serious problems concerning blocked escape routes while carrying out inspections of snow on the roofs of public buildings. Over 1,700 buildings were checked and a full one third of those did not have adequate fire escape routes, said a spokesperson for the Czech fire officers association.
A senior figure in the Czech secret services allegedly urged a Prague court to issue a warrant for the arrest of a controversial businessman at the request of the prime minister, Jiri Paroubek, the daily Mlada fronta Dnes reported on Friday. The paper says it has a copy of a letter from Vladislav Novak to the court in which he says the prime minister requested that a warrant be issued for Tomas Pitr, who is facing a jail term for tax fraud. Both Mr Paroubek and the Interior Ministry have denied the allegation.
Fire fighters in south Moravia say they have received many calls from people worried dead birds in the region may be infected with bird flu. They say the matter is not their responsibility and have called on concerned citizens to get in touch with the State Veterinary Authority. No cases of bird flu have been detected in the Czech Republic, though the disease has been found in several neighbouring countries.
A pressure group called Forum 50% says it expects there will be fewer women in the next Czech parliament. Women currently hold 17 percent of seats in the 200-seat Chamber of Deputies: based on candidate lists Forum 50% says that figure could drop to 14 percent after elections in June. They point out that countries such as Afghanistan and Vietnam have a higher percentage of women in parliament.
The Prague embassies of a number of Arab countries have protested about a documentary on the life of Muslims in the Czech Republic shown on state broadcaster Czech Television, Hospodarske noviny reported. The film features material shot on a hidden camera and accompanies testimony by Muslims with footage of terrorist attacks. The Czech Broadcasting Council is assessing whether the documentary was in breach of broadcasting regulations.
Cross-country skier Katerina Neumannova has taken the Czech Republic's first gold medal at the Winter Olympics in Turin. She won the women's 30 km freestyle on Friday with an incredible surge just before the finish line, finally taking the Olympic gold medal that had eluded her so many times in the past. As Neumannova crossed the line she raised her arms aloft and screamed with joy before hugging her two-year-old daughter, who had been allowed onto the snow to greet her mother. Neumannova, taking part in her final Olympics also has a silver medal from Turin, in the 15 km pursuit.
Austria's Environment Ministry plans to host another conference in mid-March on the Czech Republic's Temelin nuclear power plant, which is located close to the Czech-Austrian border. The aim of the conference is to discuss ways in which nuclear-free Austria can limit the plant's operation. The Upper Austrian local government as well as anti-nuclear organisations have been waging an unsuccessful campaign against the power plant, ever since it was launched in 2001. Austria currently holds EU presidency and nuclear power opponents are hoping it will promote discussion on nuclear safety across Europe during its six-month term.