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The BBC's Peter Morgan in Prague
"The people here will not surrender lightly"
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The BBC's Ray Furlong in Prague
"Speaker after speaker called for the new management of the station to resign"
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Thursday, 4 January, 2001, 13:27 GMT
Czech TV boss falls ill
Wenceslas Square, Prague, protest in support of Czech TV journalists
100,000 people demonstrated on Wenceslas Square, Prague
Jiri Hodac, the new head of Czech public TV (CT) embroiled in a bitter dispute with rebel journalists, has been rushed to hospital in a what a senior colleague described as a "very serious" condition.

His condition is really very serious

Jana Bobosikova
Jana Bobosikova, Mr Hodac's news director at the station said Mr Hodac had probably suffered a heart attack.

"Unfortunately I cannot give you any more details for the moment, but his condition is really very serious," she said.

Doctors said later Mr Hodac's condition had stabilised, but the nature of his illness was not revealed. One report said he may have been suffering from exhaustion.

The Czech Culture Minister, Pavel Dostal, had earlier threatened to bring charges against Mr Hodac, for blacking out an interview he gave to rebel journalists.

And on Wednesday night 100,000 people demonstrated in support of the journalists, who are staging a sit-in in protest at what they see as Mr Hodac's politically motivated appointment.

Jiri Hodac
Mr Hodac is believed to have suffered a heart attack
The demonstration, in Prague's Wenceslas Square, was the largest since the Velvet Revolution which ended communist power in Czechoslovakia.

Mr Hodac, a former BBC Czech Service journalist who worked briefly as head of CT news last year, denies that he would make the station into a mouthpiece for any party.

Mr Dostal's threat to file criminal charges against him came in an interview seen by viewers on cable and satellite, but kept off terrestrial television by Mr Hodac's team.

The minister said he wanted to inform the public about the government's decision on Wednesday to change the law on how top broadcasting officials are appointed.

Parliament gets involved

On Thursday he submitted the charges to a lawyer's office for consideration.

Parliament is preparing to debate the government's proposed emergency legislation, in an attempt to resolve the crisis, which began with Mr Hodac's appointment on 20 December.

Pavel Dostal
Culture Minister Pavel Dostal says he will bring charges against Jiri Hodac
Ministers have suggested that civic organisations should propose new appointees to CT's board of governors, giving political parties less control over the process.

The striking journalists say that though Mr Hodac's appointment is legal, he is too closely alligned to the main opposition Civic Democrat party, which is in a power-sharing agreement with the minority Social Democrat government.

They reject the government's proposal, saying it will take too long to come into force, and that only the immediate departure of Mr Hodac from the helm of CT offers a way out.

European Union

Twelve foreign journalists also showed their support for the strike on Wednesday, appearing in the background of a live report from CT's Brussels correspondent broadcast by the rebel staff.

EU authorities in Brussels said they were considering a call by the International Federation of Journalists for intervention in the Czech TV crisis.

The freedom of the media is one of the criteria by which the Czech Republic's application for membership of the European Union will be assessed.

Popular support

Protests also took place in the eastern cities of Brno and Ostrava.

In Prague speakers - including artists, actors, politicians and journalists - called for Mr Hodac to resign.

"It is very clear why we are here. The independence of television is at stake," said one protester.

There is widespread popular support for the journalists' stand, and more than 120,000 people have signed a petition backing their protest. Czech President Vaclav Havel has also expressed support for the strikers.

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See also:

04 Jan 01 | Europe
TV dispute focuses public anger
03 Jan 01 | Media reports
TV bosses make own news
04 Jan 01 | Europe
Czech rally demands press freedom
03 Jan 01 | Europe
Inside the Czech newsroom
02 Jan 01 | Media reports
Press views implications of TV row
02 Jan 01 | Europe
Talks fail on Czech TV crisis
02 Jan 01 | Europe
Analysis: The Czech TV rebellion
25 Dec 00 | Europe
Fight for control of Czech TV
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