The lower house of the Czech Parliament has passed a bill relaxing the so-called muzzle law, which restricts the publication of information about individuals involved in criminal investigations. The amendment, proposed by the government, would allow the media to publish information from investigations if they believe public interest outweighs the protection of privacy. According to the Ministry of Justice, such cases could include recordings of politicians that suggest they have broken the law. If approved by the Senate and ratified by the president the new exemptions will take effect this year.
Another government-sponsored bill passed by the Chamber of Deputies on Friday enables victims of violent crime to demand compensation for non-property damages. If signed into law, the amendment would allow courts to assess such damages based upon the amount demanded by victims and the evidence they provide. At present, courts may only assess damages based on material damages that can be expressed monetarily, otherwise they must sue for personal damages separately, an option not frequently used.
The director of the Šumava National Park has admitted ordering the use of powerful, prohibited insecticides in the park. In a statement sent to the Czech Press Agency, Director Jan Stráský writes that he ordered a combination of all effective means to combat the bark-beetle infestation, in spite of the fact that the requested exemption for the use of the pesticides had not yet been allowed. The Environmental organization Friends of the Earth alerted the authorities to the problem on Thursday, highlighting the danger to other insects as well as to the frogs and birds that feed on them. The Czech Inspectorate for Environmental Protection says the park management may receive a fine of up to one million crowns.
A government bill allowing foreigners to purchase residential real estate and land in the Czech Republic has been passed by the lower house of Parliament. The prohibition was an exemption that the country demanded upon acceding to the EU and expires this May. Foreign companies based in the Czech Republic and others however have long been availing themselves of legal loopholes and currently own land in the tens of thousands of hectares.
Anti-corruption police have begun a bribery investigation into the 1999 sale of the MUS coal-mining company, according to the daily Mlada fronta Dnes. The state prosecutor's office in Switzerland has been investigating related transactions for several years and is preparing an indictment. According to Mlada fronta, the police are investigating former deputy commerce minister Robert Sykora, as well as others close to former Social Democrat prime minister Stanislav Gross.
Fans of Slavia Prague stormed the pitch during a national cup semi-final on Thursday to protest against the club leadership, forcing an early end to the match. The fans were demanding an end to unclear ownership and financial dealings at the oldest Czech club, who have suffered heavy debts and have lost their first division licence for next season. Some 1,500 fans clashed with riot police, damaged equipment at Slavia's new Prague stadium and tried to attack club director Miroslav Platil. The club could face a 3-0 walkover loss for the incident.
Police are investigating six people in Moravia who they believe are guilty of tax evasion in the amount of 420 million crowns. According to police, the suspects were intentionally evading payment of value added tax on deals in mineral oils used to produce gasoline in 2009. They were arrested after police raids in five cities uncovered large amounts of evidence. If found guilty they face up to ten years’ imprisonment.
A selection committee seeking a new general director of the National Gallery has recommended economist Vladimír Rösel to the post, the Czech Press Agency reports. The final decision will rest on Minister of Culture Jiří Besser, who received the ten-member committee’s proposal on Friday morning; a decision on who is to run the institution is expected in the coming days. The committee has reportedly weighed five candidates to replace the outgoing director, well-known public figure Milan Knížák, among them art historian Jiří Fajt and the director of the Moravian Gallery Marek Pokorný. The new director of the National Gallery is to be named by June 1.
The junior coalition party, Public Affairs, will elect a chairman in roughly two weeks. Citing anonymous sources close to the party’s club of deputies, the Czech Press Agency writes that the party will announce a winner on Monday, May 23. Some 20,000 registered party members will cast their ballot online for the second time in the party’s history. In addition to the current chairman Radek John, four others will be vying for the position, including frontrunners Vít Bárta, considered the party’s de facto leader, and head of the club of deputies Karolína Peake.
A baby elephant, the first to be born in the Czech Republic, died on Friday morning in the Ostrava Zoo. The Asian Elephant was born prematurely on March 11 and was sickly and did not gain weight; its young and inexperienced mother had attacked it soon after its birth but had become an exemplary mother by the time of its death, the zoo says. A second elephant, born a month later, is in good health and is growing quickly. Zoo workers say it was an invaluable experience for the mother, which had never had the chance to learn how to raise a calf from others, and can expect as many as ten more in her life.