Written by: Monika Mudranincová
Photo: Martin Šára
Builder, designer, teacher, engineer, boiler stoker, journalist, politician. Petr Uhl (63), Czech dissident and co-founder of Charter 77 and the Committee to Defend the Unjustly Persecuted, has been all of these. After the regime change, he was the general director of the Czechoslovak Press Agency and a parliamentary deputy, and was put in charge of human rights by the Czech government. Though retired, he’s still active on the Czech Television Council and working as a journalist for the daily Právo.
EVEN IN THE DARK AGE of totalitarianism he sustained himself with free thinking and fought to assert human rights, for which the communist regime imprisoned him for nine years. Yet Uhl doesn’t hide his inclination to the left. “Although my political choice is imported from the west, I gravitate towards the left as we know it from, say, France,” he explains. “What existed in Czechoslovakia was a Stalinist perversion, a distortion of the system, a dictatorship that was worse in its results than capitalism,” he says, adding that it was against that very dictatorship that he fought.
So it’s no surprise that he sees his greatest satisfaction in having been able, as a member of the Federal Assembly, to actively participate in creating the Charter of Basic Rights and Freedoms in 1991. He further developed this activity from 1998 to 2001, when he was put in charge of human rights by the Czech government. He managed to amend the law on Czech citizenship and contri-buted to the protection of human rights becoming a matter of course. He was also in charge of minority matters. “I hate xenophobia, and I’d be happiest if a united Europe gradually took on the form of a confederation, or even a federation,” admits Uhl, the Czech representative on the administrative council of the EU Monitoring Center for Manifestations of Racism and Xenophobia.
He regularly deals with such topics in his commentaries in Právo. Journalism is another of his lifelong missions – he was editor-in-chief of information for Charter 77, for two years he ran ČTK, the largest Czech press agency, and was editor-in-chief of the bimonthly Listy. What are his plans for the future? “I’m satisfied and don’t intend to change anything, I’m just looking forward to my wife returning to Prague in two years when her mandate is up,” says the husband of Anna Šabatová, representative of the Ombudsman at his Brno headquarters. “Then our family, including our four children and two grandchildren, will be complete,” he states optimistically.