Written by Naďa Straková
PRESS FREEDOM IN ČR ON DECLINE. Last week saw Czech president sign a controversial bill which contains amendments that criminalize the disclosure of police wiretaps leaked to the media.
Since now on if a journalist decides to publish a police recording leaked to him or her in the interest of the public welfare, he or she can be fined up to eur 180 000 or in extreme cases jailed up to five years in prison.
The International Press Institute based in Vienna expressed concerns over the bill. In its press release iIts director David Dadge said that "Confidentiality of sources is there to protect investigative reporting, which is essential if journalists are to act in the public interest.''
Obviously, president Klaus does not think so.
Luckily, there are brave people who do not want to let lawmakers dictate journalists what to publish and what not. A group of senators have started to gather signatures to be able to file a complaint with the Constitutional court.
In the meantime, the Green Party lawmakers have been working on their own draft of the bill and will present it any time soon.
MONEY NOT ONLY TALKS BUT DECIDES TOO. Six companies and associations are interested in one of the biggest commissions in Czech history - a tender to clean up old ecological damage worth CZK 115 billion.
Despite the fact the Chamber of Commerce and the non-governmental anti-corruption organisation Transparency International had criticised the tender, the Finance Ministry opened the envelope with the names of the interested companies.
The ministry announced that the companies include PPF, owned by billionaire Petr Kellner (this company created an association with the firms AVE CZ, Dekonta and ECOSOIL), as well as Geosan, Marius Pedersen Engineering and two consortiums, created through the partnership of Czech companies and international companies.
And it will be the price that will decide, nothing or nobody else. ""The only evaluation criterion in the second round will be the price," finance ministry spokesman Ondřej Jakob said.
PROTECT AND DO NOT GAMBLE. Fretting about resurgent national hyper-protectionism in the EU, the Czech EU presidency convened a special summit to deal with the steps individual EU member states have taken to handle the economic storm sweeping across Europe.
Czech Civic Democrats are well-known free-marketeers, praised by the renowned British weekly The Economist, but the question is: Will they convince France or Germany to slow down in protecting their own markers? March 1 will tell.
BRAVE NEW MEMBERS OF CZECH SOCIETY. Amid the economic downturn and thousands of foreigners having lost their jobs in the country comes a second group of Burmese refugees that have received an asylum status from the Czech government.
But the UHNCR Prague representatives do not fear the new soon to be members of the Czech society would not be able to integrate and eventually become self-sufficient.
"They went through horrible things and they are motivated very much to integrate in the Czech society," added Miklušáková.
They are quick learners, that´s for sure. The first group that arrived in October already speaks basic Czech.
According to Miklušáková, they can say sentences like "I am going to the post office" or "I like cooking." I pay high respect to that, since I could hardly learn the sign and pronunciation of "toilet for women" in Burmese when visiting Yangon.
THE AIR, THE AIR IS EVERYWHERE. Breathe deep, while you sleep, breathe deep -
says one of the songs in the Hair musical.
Now, did you know that fine dust particles can be breathed in deep into the lungs and often contain carcinogens? This knowledge will not make us sleep any better but luckily, the Environment Ministry is trying to do something about it.
It is preparing an amendment to its "smog regulation" that could let regions or towns limit the main sources of pollution whenever they record an overly high concentration of fine dust particles. Up until now, officials were only able to limit traffic or factory production in cases of high concentration of sulphur or nitrogen.
Thus city officials could soon have a new tool how to ban cars from entering city centers in smoggy conditions or limit the production of power plants and other factories. The proposal of the regulation wants to enable towns and regions to be able to regulate pollution whenever there are higher dust levels all year long.
If everything goes as expected by the environment ministry, the regulation could come into effect before next heating season.