In the News 15.12.08

Litvínov housing, freedom of speech, and more...

Written by Naďa Straková
Aktuálně.cz CzechNews


LITVÍNOV STILL IN THE NEWS. The town of Litvínov has been basking in the spotlight for some weeks now. As soon as the town hall authorities announced a so called “zero tolerance” policy, they have come up with a new plan how to grapple with the uneasy situation in the Janov housing estate.

A new integrated plan of development was presented to the citizens of Litvínov in a public meeting but they all seemed eager to propose only one solution: Move the Romany out of Litvínov.

Deputy Mayor Martin Klika (Social Democrats) promised this week the Litvínov authorities would see new measures put in place. Four families, the most troublesome in his view, will be moved out of the Janov flats.

But Dutch ambassador Jan Lucas van Hoorn who visited Litvínov last week says it is not a solution. If yes, only a temporary one. 

In an interview for Aktuálně.cz, Canadian social worker Kay Blair who visited the country two weeks ago as part of the entourage of Canada´s Governor General Michaelle Jean has proposed a solution:

“Your society lacks a strong government that would send out a clear message against racism and discrimination,” said Kay Blair, an executive director of a community agency in Toronto, Canada. 

And she had much more to say about the Czech Roma integration. “You can say to the Romany “Here, take a few thousand dollars and stay where you are”, but you can still take a few thousand dollars and invest in a new sustainable strategy of integration with no need to invest later in the future.”

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But overall, Blair thinks the Czech Republic is on its good track, having some one like president Klaus who spoke to her about his commitment to democracy and a civil society.


FREEDOM OF SPEECH VS WRITING SMELLY FARTS. What is it that politicians, especially the Czech ones, have a different concept of freedom of speech than let’s say journalists? 

Aktuálně.cz ran an article about Interior Minister Ivan Langer’s 18 million pork barrel support which he allocated to a civic association called Museum of Olomouc’s Fortress (Muzeum Olomoucké pevnosti). Surprisingly (or not that much?), the association is headed by his assistant and the Minister is its honorary member.

In something popularly known as “slicing of the bear”, which refers to pork barrel politics in the English speaking world, Minister Langer received the third highest amount of money this year.

In the world of Czech politics it is an annual ritual, in which members of the parliament slip various allotment requirements for local projects (in their own constituencies) into the budget draft proposal. This not-so-orderly “carving-up” ritual invites criticism and lots of questions.

Especially since the financial politicking takes place inside the parliamentary budget committee and is uncontrolled, therefore taxpayers’ money can be granted to questionable projects, to say the least.

For disclosing the story of the 18 million pork barrel, Aktuálně.cz reporter Martina Macková has earned a personal “label” from the minister himself – “stupid”. In an sms message he sent to her, Langer said much more than this. See here what else was on Langer’s mind that he needed to send an sms to the reporter who just did her job.

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FREEDOM OF SPEECH VS PRIVACY PROTECTION LAWS. Czech journalists are strongly opposing a lower-house proposal to ban media from publishing wiretaps. Yet, even the existing laws make the publication of wiretaps and other private content difficult by limiting journalists’ right to protect the sources of such materials.

In early December, prosecution handed a CZK 20,000 fine to reporter Sabina Slonková after she refused to disclose the source of a controversial CCTV footage aired by internet newspaper Aktuálně.cz. Her lawyer filed an appeal against the fine. See the details of the story here.


GET CHOKED AND EXCITED. The latest Czech film Sestra, premiered last week, is based on Jáchym Topol’s 1994 novel Sestra (City, Sister, Silver) and an album of the same title by a Czech alternative band Psí vojáci. The film is unlike anything else in the Czech cinematography. It is heavy with meaning and reminds us that film should, above all, affect the depth of our souls; that it should excite and hurt, move and terrify.

Sestra is by no means a boring film – it is only not served on a silver plate. It demands the participation of the viewer who should approach the film with an open and accommodating mind in order to connect with the film, seize it and reap from it as much as possible.

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The film’s main protagonist, Potok (Creek), meets Černá (Black), a mysterious femme fatale with whom he then rushes through the world. Devoid of pseudo-funny catchphrases typical of other Czech films, Sestra offers an engrossing initiation journey through a love relationship towards a loss of youth ideals and desires.

However, it needs to be said that the film is not for everyone. Those who will let Sestra speak to them, will enjoy a rare experience. Being infected by Sestra means being choked and weighed down and at the same time excited and elevated. Why not to get choked and elevated a bit over the Xmas holiday? 

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