Report: Czech artists acquitted over faked nuclear blast on TV

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

PRAGUE, Czech Republic: Czech artists who hacked into a national television weather broadcast last year to show what appeared to be a nuclear explosion were acquitted on Tuesday of the criminal charge of spreading false information, a TV station reported.

Members of the Prague-based Ztohoven art group acknowledged tampering with equipment at the public broadcaster Czech Television so that viewers watching a live panoramic shot of the Krkonose, or Giant Mountains, in the northern Czech Republic on June 17, 2007, were jolted by a flash of bright light. When the light cleared, a fiery mushroom cloud could be seen rising on the horizon.

Seven Ztohoven members were charged with spreading false information and if found guilty each could have received a maximum sentence of three years in jail.

But the county court in the northern town of Trutnov ruled Tuesday that what the group did "was not a criminal act," Czech news television CT24 said, showing brief footage of the court session. Confirmation of the ruling was not available despite repeated telephone calls to the Trutnov court and to Judge Stanislava Suchankova.

The group claimed the aim of its project was to show how reality could be manipulated by the media. Czech Television said such stunts were "improper" and said they could scare many people.

In December, Prague's National Gallery awarded Ztohoven the new NG 333 prize for young artists for the TV stunt. The 333 stands for the size of the cash prize — 333,000 koruna — equivalent to $20,400.

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