Thursday, 17 April 2014

Praguers protest abolition of free Internet in libraries

9 August 2011

Prague, Aug 8 (CTK) - About 50 opponents of the abolition of free access to the Internet in Czech libraries, which the Interior Ministry is pondering as an austerity measure, held a protest meeting in front of the ministry yesterday.

The meeting was staged by the extra-parliamentary Czech Pirate Party. It took place in spite of the ministry's recent statement that the free access project will continue until the government decides on a different way of its financing.

The government is to discuss the issue in September.

One of the protest organisers, Vitezslav Praks, said the demonstrators want the problem to be solved properly.

"This is the first protest we've ever convoked, out of despair. In the 21st century, no library can exist without [offering access to] the Internet," Praks said on behalf of the Pirate Party.

The Internet serves not only to seek information on the net but also enables people's access to the library's database and their ordering of books, he continued.

The creation of the systems has cost the state more than its annual spending on free Internet. If the state ceased to support free Internet, libraries would be unable to offer it due to money shortage, Praks added.

Under the library law, libraries are bound to offer free access to the Internet. If cut off from the Internet, a library could be deleted from the official list of libraries and stripped of subsidies.

Praks said he is convinced that the Interior Ministry has backpedalled on the Internet project's abolition also in reaction to the demonstration yesterday.

The project subsidises free Internet in 3,500 libraries all over the country. It costs 100 million crowns a year.

The Culture Ministry is reportedly working on variants of free Internet financing in libraries.

($1=17.134 crowns)

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