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Havel Criticized For Promoting Car

September 22, 1999

PRAGUE, Czech Republic (AP) _ Czech President Vaclav Havel came under strong media criticism Wednesday for what critics said was his promotion of a new passenger car.

Havel attracted the attention of journalists on Monday by driving the new Skoda Fabia model in the village of Lany, where his presidential residence is located outside Prague.

Shots of Havel with Skoda’s director, Vratislav Kulhanek, in the newest Skoda model were shown all over the television news that night.

While Havel’s spokesman has argued the action was only a presentation of the new car to the president and had nothing to do with advertising, many disagree.

``It was clearly an advertising action,″ the daily newspaper Zemske Noviny quoted the chairman of the Association of Czech advertising agencies, Pavel Brabec, as saying.

``An advertisement may not use bearers of public office . . . not even if they agree to it,″ added Juraj Podkonicky, chairman of the Council for Advertisement.

Ordinary Czechs were even more shocked to hear from Kulhanek that the president drove at 100 mph.

In the Czech Republic, the speed limit on highways is 80 mph, and about 55 mph on secondary roads, such as those around Lany.

``I don’t care what he drives, but it was useful to hear how fast he drives,″ said 22-year-old student Matej Fiser. ``If I did that, I would never see my driving license again.″

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