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Prague Webwatch

Weekly Webwatch is back from its New Year’s hiatus

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By Scott MacMillan Add to favorites email print this article Share on FaceBoook

As NicMoc and Doug Arellanes both point out, the editor of the Czech Republic’s leading investigative weekly, Respekt, was maced and beaten to a pulp outside his home on Saturday. The paper suspects mafia gangs in North Bohemia operating in the towns of Most and Litvínov, extorting money from local businesses under the noses of local police. Police in Prague are searching for two men in connection with the attack on editor Tomáš Němeček, Radio Prague reported Tuesday.

Webwatch generally tries to stay apolitical, but anybody who’s not outraged by this should themselves get a licking. It’s also a little galling that the following day, almost every major Czech paper led with – get this – a pig roast held by former Prime Minister Miloš Zeman for his partner-cum-rival, President Václav Klaus. When it comes to denigrating journalists and creating the type of political environment in which attacks on the press are par for the course, these two are the lead the pack. (When he was PM, Zeman threatened to put Respekt out of business with a shower of lawsuits after the paper accused the Zeman government of failing to tackle corruption.)

“We live in a post-communist country where the power elite has spoken for years – and increasingly often – of journalists as ‘muck’ or ‘scum’, where politicians publicly declare their desire to crush troublesome media. In such an atmosphere, an attack of that kind cannot come as a surprise,” writes Respekt in a statement wisely translated into English on the weekly’s web site. If you’re the slightest bit interested in Czech politics and culture and the way things are heading in this country, that article is worth reading in its entirely.

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Czech Radio reports that Stock Pilsen, the company that makes Fernet, is going to try exporting the bitter digestive to the United States, hoping to replicate the success of Germany’s Jaegermeister. Stock Sales Director Radek Svoboda told the station that homesick Czech-Americans and Czech expats have been requesting the product, the distinct flavor of which has often been compared to that of shoe polish.

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Hoo-ah! The blog Strange Women Lying in Ponds takes apart Gwendolyn Albert’s recent op-ed in the Prague Post. The result is a screed that runs all over the place, but then again, so did the original piece in the Post. SWLiP sums up Albert’s argument thusly: “If only everybody would vote, then America would be more like Europe!” To be fair, Albert’s argument never made a comparison with Europe; but the underlying and unfounded presumption appears to be that if voter participation increased in the U.S., politicians would lean more to the left. SWLiP (“watch a mild-mannered lawyer gradually lose his mind in the face of mounting evidence that it's time for God to hit Ctrl+Alt+Del”) is a libertarian-voting former expat resident of Prague. If you take issue with his argument, go say so in his comments bin. (Link via PragueBlog.)

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“What'd they do? Throw darts at a map?” That’s what PragueBlog has to say about the new rules requiring U.S. immigration officers to photograph and fingerprint every Czech going into the United States. The requirement covers a seemingly random assortment of countries, but oddly, not potential terrorist hotbeds like France, Britain and Germany. The general feeling in the Czech blogsphere seems to be that this rule is, in PragueBlog’s words, “boneheaded.” Indeed, many Czechs are saying they refuse to travel to the U.S. until the rule is rescinded.

Scott MacMillan is a freelance journalist based in Prague.

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