Foreign press and radio response to the self-immolations of Jan Palach and Jan Zajíc

For the whole time of the Communist regime, the Czechoslovak Press Agency (ČsTK) was secretly monitoring foreign media, following instructions of selected Party and state representatives. The file where there are documents collected by Secret Police representatives (Secret Police Archives, H 682, vol. 10) also includes various responses to Palach’s self-immolation.

The news summary of the Czechoslovak Press Agency titled „About Czechoslovakia and socialistic countries“ contains news of dailies and press agencies from not only the Soviet bloc countries (e.g. Hungary, Poland and Romania) but also countries that were neutral in the Cold War (Yugoslavia but also e.g. Argentina) as well as western countries (France, the United States of America). The summary also includes information concerning foreign radio broadcast in Czech and Slovak (Radio Free Europe, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle). The file contains news from the period between 28 January and 27 February 1969.

The PDF file is arranged chronologically as follows: The part from 28 January is on pages 2-38 of the pdf file; 29 January on p. 39-63; 30 January on p. 64-90; 31 January on p. 91-133; 2 February on p. 134.145; 3 February on p. 146-155; 4 February on p. 146-167; 5 February on p. 168-175; 7 February on p. 176-205; 8 February on p. 209-211; 9 February on p. 206-209; 12 February on p. 212-220; 15 February on p. 221-226; 16 February on p. 227-232; 21 February on p. 233-244, 25 February on p. 245-247; 26 February on p. 248-261; 27 February on p. 262-271.

The thematic summary begins with an evaluation of the political stability of the Communist government in the Czechoslovak Socialistic Republic after Jan Palach´s death and it ends with news on Jan Zajíc´s death and information on publishing of his farewell letter in the American press agency United Press International. Interesting items include e.g. a critical view of the Soviet occupation published in Mexican dailies (p. 31), news on hunger strike of a Czech student “John F. Zyryl“ in front of the Soviet Embassy in Stockholm (p. 34), words by Indian premier Indira Gándhí (p. 96) who said that „Palach joined the gallery of the World´s greatest martyrs including Mahátma Gándhí“. Similar information on broadcast of Radio Free Europe in late January and early February 1969 can be found on p. 177-186.

The whole summary of the Czechoslovak Press Agency „About Czechoslovakia and a Socialistic Countries “ (in Czech) can be downloaded here:

Foreign media response to the self-immolation of Jan Palach (ABS)