PRAGUE, Czechoslovakia -- The nation's struggle to confront its communist past took another strange twist Thursday when several Czech newspapers published a list of over 200 journalists accused of being secret police agents under the former Communist regime.
The publication of the list came only hours after parliamentary deputies asked that they be given the list, which was compiled by the Federal Security and Information Service, and signed a vow of secrecy not to divulge its contents.
The list names current members of the Czech and Slovak journalists' unions who were identified by the security service as agents of the Communist-era secret police known as the StB.
The publication comes as Czechoslovakia, facing parliamentary elections on June 5-6, is increasingly divided over how to treat those who collaborated with the country's former communist rulers.
Last year several parliamentarians were named as secret police collaborators, and some resigned. One, Jan Kavan, who contends he was framed, has become the focal point of a debate that has soured Czechoslovak political life.
Right-wing parties have been calling for nearly total ostracism for anyone ever associated with the communists and the once-pervasive secret police apparatus.
Left-wing parties and centrists including President Vaclav Havel are against publishing such lists, urging a comprehensive legal approach to determine what was a crime and who should be prosecuted. The opening of secret police files in the former East Germany has wreaked havoc on the lives of many people and caused some suicides.
The release of the list in Prague was denounced by Parliament's deputy chairman, Zdenek Jicinsky, who said the security service' chief, Stefan Bacinsky, acted 'absolutely irresponsibly' in producing the list.
The list was originally requested by officials of the Czech government and later was turned over to Parliament Chairman Alexander Dubcek.
'How could the list be of any importance for Parliament in making its decisions when Parliament was only one day from the end of its last session,' Jicinsky asked.
Observers say investigating people in positions of power for secret police links has failed totally in its aim to to restore popular confidence in the institutions of government after 42 years of communist rule.
'This shows that no one has control of the vetting issue at all,' said one western diplomat who requested anonymity. 'The whole point (of vetting) is to vive confidence to the people that government is in the hands of the correct people. But the process has been such a fiasco, it has had the opposite effect.'
The list of agents was published in full by Metropolitan, a small daily of uncertain political orientation, and by Telegraf, the right-of- center daily founded by Finance Minister Vaclav Klaus's Civic Democratic Party.
Among those mentioned on the list are Ales Benda, the former editor of the Czechoslovak news agency CSTK and now the service's Washington correspondent, and Zbynek Fiala, a spokesman for the first post- communist government and now a commentator at Mlada Fronta Dnes, an indepednent newspaper.
Also on the list was Jindrich Hoda, deputy editor-in-chief of Telegraf, which published the full list. Telegraf's editor in chief said Hoda probably would be asked to resign.