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Interior minister says referendum could be held on granting asylum to Syrian refugees

The minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, says a national referendum could be held to decide on whether the Czech Republic should accept refugees from Syria. Speaking on a TV discussion show on Sunday, Mr. Chovanec said accepting between 5,000 and 10,000 had been mooted but that the process was in its initial phases. He said the Czech Republic had to be very careful about who it allowed in. Over 100 Syrian refugees have arrived in the country since the start of their state's civil war in 2011. European Union interior ministers are due to discuss on Friday the granting of asylum to Syrians; Mr. Chovanec will discuss the Czech position with the cabinet on Monday.

Anti-Zeman protest planned for Monday evening

A protest demonstration against President Miloš Zeman is planned for central Prague on Monday evening. Opponents of the president are planning to carry red cards, echoing a protest held on November 17, and wear red clothes on the march from Wenceslas Square to Prague Castle. Almost 100,000 people have signed a linked online petition calling for abdication of the head of state, the news site Echo24.cz reported on Sunday. Mr. Zeman has been criticised for his views on China and Russia and for an expletive-dotted live radio interview.

Some Czech universities could lose accreditation under stricter new law, says minister

The number of third-level educational institutions could fall markedly under a new bill making it harder for them to get accreditation, the minister of education, Marcel Chládek, said on a Czech Television discussion show on Sunday. Mr. Chládek refused to say how many schools could lose their licenses if the law, which is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Education, comes into effect. At present there are 77 public universities, 33 private ones and two state ones in the Czech Republic. The minister also said conditions would be tougher for branches of foreign universities in this country.

Finance Minister Babiš says he will not stand for president but would like to be PM

The minister of finance, Andrej Babiš, says he is not eyeing the post of president in future but would like to be prime minister. In an interview in Pravo, Mr. Babiš said he would definitely not stand for president as the head of state’s powers are limited and the only enjoyable part of the job would be contact with citizens. The ANO chief and billionaire added that Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka could become president and that he himself would do a good job of heading a majority coalition government. ANO entered high-level politics by coming second in general elections last year and have a consistent lead in opinion polls.

Prima calls for change in law to allow stations to broadcast swear words in news reports

The television channel Prima has called for a change in the law under which broadcasters would not have to beep out bad language in news reports, the news site iDnes.cz reported. A spokesperson for the commercial station, Marie Fianová, said news programmes carried political statements that were protected by the country’s Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms; voters should judge whether legislators’ language had crossed a line, not broadcasters, she said. Some television stations recently received reprimands for broadcasting parts of a controversial expletive-dotted interview by President Miloš Zeman.

Singer Karel Gott wins Czech Nightingale poll for 39th time

The Český slavík (Czech Nightingale) poll of musician of the year has been won for the 39th time by veteran pop star Karel Gott. At a ceremony at Prague’s State Opera on Saturday night, Gott, who is 75, also received a special Absolute Nightingale prize for earning the most points in the history of the competition, which is voted on by members of the public. Best female singer was Lucie Bílá, who took the award for the 18th time, rockers Kabát were best band and singer Elis was best newcomer.

Jazz great Herbie Hancock returns to Czech Republic after nine years for Brno show

The great American jazz musician Herbie Hancock received sustained applause from an almost capacity audience at Brno’s Vodova sports hall on Saturday night. The Oscar and multi-Grammy winning keyboardist and composer, who is 74, played songs from across his distinguished career, including his 1962 classic Watermelon Man, in a concert that was part of the city’s JazzFest. Hancock had previously performed twice in Prague, at a jazz festival in the capital in 1986 and at the Prague Spring classical music festival with the Prague Radio Symphony Orchestra in 2005.