Around 100,000 Czechs demonstrated in Prague's Wenceslas Square last week in support of striking journalists at the state-owned television station. The journalists have been occupying the studios of the station since Christmas Eve in protest at the appointment of Jiri Hodac as the new director general. A parliamentary committee appointed Hodac, who is close to the pro-business leader of the opposition, Vaclav Klaus, who wants to privatise state television. Hodac has already sacked key managers in his attempt to control the content of news broadcasts.
The news staff are fighting to retain political independence. They have barricaded themselves in the newsroom and are broadcasting rebel news bulletins which have been blacked out by Hodac. 'If we give this room up, we can no longer broadcast the truth and then we will have lost,' said Eva Kurnertova, editor of the daily news briefs. Over 150,000 people have already signed a petition calling for Hodac to be sacked.