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Czech Republic: Government, Senate Discuss TV Crisis

Prague, 3 January 2001 (RFE/RL) - The Czech government and the upper house of parliament, the Senate, in separate sessions today are discussing the crisis at Czech public television. Two parties (KDU-CSL and US) are proposing the Senate hold a public hearing by Jan 12 about the situation in public media.

The lower house of parliament is due to hold a special session devoted to the situation at Czech TV on Friday.

Mass demonstrations are due to be held this evening (1700) on Wenceslas Square in Prague as well as in Brno and Ostrava in support of Czech TV employees.

The employees oppose the recent rapid appointment of former BBC radio reporter Jiri Hodac as director general of public television because of suspicions that he is closely linked to Vaclav Klaus and his Civic Democratic Party.

The employees continue to produce five hours a day of news programming, which however is only available via satellite, cable and the internet. Hodac's small team has been broadcasting a few brief news programs.

In Brussels, Jonathan Faull, spokesman for the European Union's executive Commission, avoided direct comment on the Czech TV crisis, but the reiterated the Commission's support for freedom of expression:

" As is well known, the Commission is committed to the principles of freedom of expression and freedom of the media, as indeed, we are sure, is the Czech government.

Also in Brussels, the International Federation of Journalists came out in support of the Czech TV employees on the grounds that their " about putting an end to censorship and political manipulation of media."