There’s a great word in Czech, protekce, which means something like “someone on the inside.” As far as I can tell, it comes from the Communist era, when personal relations were the only way to get something past a hidebound and hostile bureaucracy.

Protekce was the word that came to mind yesterday as I watched the coverage of the three kidnapped Czech journalists’ safe return home, but this is protekce of a completely different kind. The three journalists – two from Czech TV and one from Czech Radio – were kidnapped on the road between Baghdad and Amman as they were trying to leave Iraq.

There were two reasons I thought about protekce. I was surprised to see Iraqi Culture Minister Mufid Al-Jazairi on TV, speaking fluent Czech. He took personal interest in the hostages’ plight. Al-Jazairi studied journalism in Prague, and has a Czech wife.

There were other helpful factors in getting the hostages released. One was that One was that Czech ambassador Martin Klepetka met with Sunni spiritual leaders. Another was that members of the Czech Muslim community wrote letters asking for the hostages’ release. A third was the reminder that the Czechs operated hospitals in Iraq.

Regardless, their return home safe is cause for celebration. I’d use every bit of protekce too if it were me.

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