Traditionally on the first weekend of November millions of Czechs pay their respects to departed friends and relatives. Cemeteries around the country are awash with candles and flowers as families undertake an annual pilgrimage to family graves, often travelling for hours to reach their destination. In the evening masses are held for the departed. In Prague Cardinal Dominik Duka will serve a special mass at the Sts Peter and Paul Basilica at Vyšehrad.
The Plzen branch of the Social Democrats has expressed full support for party leader Bohuslav Sobotka, who this week survived an attempt to oust him from office. The party chair in turn took a benevolent stance to Milan Chovanec, one of the five rebels who met with President Milos Zeman shortly after the elections allegedly to plan the ouster. He later reconsidered his position and publicly admitted the meeting had taken place, forcing the others into similar admissions and turning the situation around in favour of the embattled leader. Mr. Sobotka said that while Chovanec had retained his respect for speaking out, the other four rebels could no longer be trusted and could not expect posts in high office.
Environment Minister Tomas Podivínský’s decision to scrap a ministerial department providing consulting services to firms and consumers has evoked widespread criticism, with experts arguing that it runs counter to EU trends in this field. The abolished section dealt, among others, with environment-friendly labels that help consumers find healthy products in shops. Ministry spokesman Matyáš Vitik said the agenda would continue to be handled at the ministry but would be divided among the remaining sections. NGOs working in the field say other departments and sections have suffered a similar fate in the past three years and accuse the government of gradually downgrading the ministry’s role.
Over a dozen Czech TV reporters have stood up for the head of the station’s news desk Zdeněk Šámal who may allegedly be sacked over claims of censorship. Sixteen news reporters signed a petition in support of Šámal following roumours that he was to be sacked for reportedly censoring news reports in favour of President Miloš Zeman and the Party of Citizens’ Rights –Zemanites. Emotions have been running high at Czech public television after two dozen news and currently affairs reporters sent a letter of complaint to the Czech Television Council claiming independent and impartial reporting was at stake and their bosses were bowing to political pressure. Sixty other employees have disclaimed the reports. The head of Czech public television Petr Dvořák has said he will get independent auditors to investigate the matter.
Meteorologists have issued a warning of high winds with a force of 90 to 110 km across the Czech Republic on Sunday. Drivers have been warned to exercise extreme caution and mountain rescue services have advised people against mountain hiking on that day. The warning is valid between 8am and 17 pm on Sunday.
Support for the Social Democrat leader has also come from the Vysočina branch of the party which on Saturday called on all five rebels to resign from their posts in the party leadership. The Vysočina regional branch also called for an extraordinary party conference to be held as soon as possible in order to clarify the party’s course in the wake of last week’s power struggle.
Former transport minister and Public Affairs leader Vít Bárta who is being investigated by police in connection with information leaks from the police force has been charged and released. Mr. Bárta was released on Friday evening after spending 24 hours in detention. The police have imposed an information embargo on the case and Vít Bárta himself has refused to comment apart from telling journalists he was innocent of the charges against him. According to the internet news site idnes.cz the Public Affairs leader, who once owned the biggest detective agency in the land, has been charged in connection with information leaks of police wiretappings of conversations between the former Prague mayor Pavel Bém and influential Prague businessman Roman Janoušek. The head of the information division of the anti-corruption police Jan Petržílek has also been questioned and charged in connection with the case.
The late Jiří Hájek, a leading member of the Czech dissent and one of the first spokespersons of Charter 77 was not decorated on October 28th as planned because his son refused to take part in the official ceremony and to receive the decoration from President Miloš Zeman, the Office of the President confirmed on Friday. The president’s spokeswoman said the president considered Jíří Hájek Jr’s request that it should be sent by post insulting. Hájek Jr made it clear that he did not want to participate in the prize-awarding ceremony at the Prague Castle because he was critical of President Zeman's activities. Rock singer and musician Vladimir Mišík also refused to receive the state decoration from the president.
Police around Europe have cracked down on an international ring producing false identity papers for several countries, detaining 26 people. Seven people were detained in the operation on Czech territory and six have been charged with forgery and money-laundering, including three Armenian nationals who reportedly headed the operation. False IDs were sold to Germany, Austria, France, Norway and Sweden for the price of 300 to 600 euro apiece.
The Globe and Mail has voiced reservations regarding the appointment of Czech-born Otto Jelínek as Canada’s ambassador to the Czech Republic. The paper says the communist refugee, world-champion figure skater and Mulroney era cabinet minister returned to the Czech Republic in 1994 where he spent 18 years and developed a wide range of business and personal connections which questions his ability to represent and advocate for Canada. The Globe and Mail moreover points out that Mr. Jelínek was associated with a still unresolved corruption scandal linked to the suspect acquisition of fighter jets for the Czech military.
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