The Czech prime minister has sent his condolences to the people of Japan, following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that ravaged the country. In a letter to his Japanese counterpart Mr. Necas expressed his deepest sympathies to those who had lost their loved ones, their homes and their property. He said the thoughts of the Czech nation were with Japan at this time of tragedy.
The Czech government has said it is ready to assist Japan in any possible way. Foreign Ministry spokesman Vit Kolar said the government was monitoring the situation closely and was ready to respond to any request made by the Japanese authorities. NGOs have also offered assistance.
The Czech Foreign Ministry said it had no reports of Czechs injured or killed in the Japanese disaster. The ministry said that according to available information there were about 250 Czechs permanently residing in the country, but that it had no information regarding the number of Czech tourists or their whereabouts at the time of the tragedy. According to the spokesman of the Czech Association of Travel Agencies Tomio Okamura there were likely to be hundreds of Czech tourists in Japan, but at present communication was highly problematic. The Czech Philharmonic Orchestra which was in the south of the country at the time of the tragedy is reported to be safe.
Czech Defense Minister Alexander Vondra has suspended from office the head of the Czech military police Vladimir Ložek and two commanders over the storming of offices at Czech public television’s news desk on Friday. The incident happened during the station’s prime time newscast which broadcast live shots of a heavily armed and masked military commando forcing its way into the building and storming the office of three editors. The search took over five hours and the police eventually left with sacks of confiscated property including computers, notes, tapes film footage and contacts. The commando had a court order and was reportedly searching for a military intelligence file that one of the editors had previously acquired. Czech Television says it is filing criminal charges against the military police and has sent a letter of complaint to the prime minister. The head of Czech TVs news desk said the commando had taken information relating to news stories about the defense ministry that he feared could be misused.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has described Friday’s military police raid at Czech television as “excessive and unacceptable”. The prime minister said he was greatly concerned by what had taken place and said he fully approved of the suspension from office of the officials responsible for the decision. Mr. Nečas said he had discussed the incident with the defence minister who shared the view that the investigation in question did not merit such a demonstration of force.
Over 500 demonstrators gathered in the town of Nový Bydžov, north-east of Prague, on Saturday to express their views on the town’s policy in dealing with problem inhabitants, mainly Romanies. A gathering of 300 ultra right supporters backed the mayor’s demand for greater powers, including the right to cancel welfare benefits, expel problem inhabitants who do not have permanent residence in the town and take a tougher line in collecting debts. Another 200 protesters, mainly Romanies demonstrated near-by. Police were out in force to keep the two groups apart. Minor skirmishes are reported, and one demonstrator is reported to have suffered light injuries when he clashed with mounted police. Some Romanies had left the town fearing for their safety and many shops were closed for the day.
More than half of the country’s police officers have signed a petition calling for the resignation of Interior Minister Radek John. The petition, signed by close to 22,000 officers, criticizes the interior minister for bad management, lack of experience and poor communication skills. Minister John, a former journalist whose Public Affairs party did well in the last elections on a strong anti-corruption agenda, said the discontent within the ranks of the police was largely due to cuts in salaries and operation costs for which he could not be blamed.
Pharmacists across the country are calling for flu medicine containing the substance pseudoephedrine to be sold on prescription only. The substance is widely used by drug addicts for the production of a home-made hard drug going under the name pervitin. Previous efforts by Parliament to curb the sale of flu medicine were only partly successful. An amendment to the law stipulating that they could only be sold on an ID came under fire from the Office for the Protection of Private Data and pharmacists were ordered to delete a central register containing the information. Now some pharmacies keep their own record, but drug addicts can acquire an unlimited amount of pseudoephedrine simply by making a round of several pharmacies in town. Parliament is to debate related legislation next week, opening the way for an amendment.
The coming days should be partly cloudy with intervals of rain and shine and day temperatures between 12 and 16 degrees Celsius.