“Our graphic designer Jirka Svoboda once told me that he had met Mirek Moc, Mladá fronta’s former foreign reporter who was at that time a member of the Communist Party Central Committee bureau and at the same time editor-in-chief of Rudé právo. Allegedly, Mirek Moc told Jirka about how Batrla came to see him all fired up, saying: ‘I’m gonna fire this reactionary bunch from Mladá fronta!’ Mirek Moc asked him: ‘But who will write your newspaper, then?’ – ‘I will get some comrades from the Communist Party bureau and they will learn!’ Mirek objected: ‘Do you think they will learn? You can fire that bunch but then the comrades will blame you for your paper being unreadable.’ This was probably the reason why Batrla changed his mind. Only two girls were eventually fired from the editorial board as well as the Communist Party. One of them went to work at a book storage in Žižkov while the other one worked in a costume shop in Prague’s Old Town.”
“A day after the American astronaut McCandless first stepped out into outer space without a rope, I received a call from the deputy editor-in-chief: ‘They haven’t included the news into the foreign section so write a few lines and ask for a picture from the Czech Press Agency.’ So I wrote a few lines but the Agency didn’t have a picture. Deputy editor-in-chief gave me an advice: ‘I have video recording which I had made yesterday and Petr Molt can take a picture of it.’ The picture went into press along with my enthusiastic article. On Friday there was the regular meeting of newspaper editors-in-chief at the Communist Party Central Committee in which Mladá fronta’s deputy Josef Veselý had taken part. Head of the Communist Party press department was enraged: ‘I forbade Czech Press Agency publish a picture of that American astronaut and now, look, Pacner had gotten it somewhere else and published it along with what text?! What do you say to that, comrades?’ The comrades went quiet. Eventually, Josef Veselý raised his hand and said: ‘Comrade Čmolík, I will tell Pacner to also write on the Soviets building a space shuttle.’”
“In August 1989 some of the Soviet papers already wrote openly about the 1968 intervention, naming it occupation. By the end of September I made a bet with my girlfriend that in just a year I’d be able to write the truth about August 1968. Then I visited Moscow at the turn of September since they included me into the first batch of foreign reporters who were allowed to watch the launch of a space rocket from Bajkonur. This is where I met Míša Rebrov, an air force officer and the head of science and cosmonautics department of the army daily Krasnaja Zvezda. We knew each other for years. He told me: ‘Shall anything happen in your country, don’t worry, our boys from Milovice will help you out against those dogmatists.’ Then, Golovanov told me in Moscow: ‘Deputy editor-in-chief of Komsomolskaya Pravda Jadviga Juferova wants to talk to you.’ He brought me to her and she passed me a piece of paper, saying: ‘These are all my telephone numbers. If anything happens back home, call me immediately. And don’t worry, it will turn out well.’ The third thing was a long discussion with my colleague Voloďa Gubarev who used to work in the science department of Komsomolskaya Pravda and at that time was head of science department in the Communist Party daily. At one point he asked me: ‘So when will Havel become president of Czechoslovakia?’ I only grasped the gravity of the question by the end of November. I think that the people I knew had an idea as to how things would unfold.”
Half a century in the editorial board of Mladá fronta
Karel Pacner was born on 29 March 1936 in Janovice nad Úhlavou. As a boy he had participated in the first renewal of the Czech Scout organization Junák. Between 1949 and 1951 he and his colleagues from the club had been publishing magazine Pochodeň (Torch). During his grammar school studies in Klatovy he wrote articles for the daily Práce. Following graduation in 1954 he studied at the University of Economics in Prague where he graduated in 1962. Ever since mid-1950s he collaborated with Mladá fronta publishing house, becoming a member of the editorial board first in the summer of 1959 and then again after concluding his military service in 1961. Since the turn of the 1950s he has been an active popularizer of natural sciences, later focusing further on astronautics. In the late-1960s he began exploring the topic of espionage. In the 1970s and 80s he took part in the production of a TV series on astronautics and wrote a number of popular science books on the space program. During the Velvet Revolution he was a member of Mladá fronta’s temporary management. In 1990 he contributed to its independence, privatization and sale to a foreign investor. In the 1990s he prepared documentation for a TV series on Czechoslovak espionage of the Czech TV. He had left the editorial board of Mladá fronta DNES in 2001. He was active as an author of popular science literature and he also published on the blog www.karelpacner.cz until the end of his life. Karel Pacner died on 7 April 2021.