Responding to refusals from nominees, Czech foundation says Roma Spirit prize is from the public, not the state
The Michael Kocáb Foundation has issued a statement reminding the community and the country that the Roma Spirit Award is a public prize expressing respect for the work of specific individuals that contributes to good coexistence between Romani people and other inhabitants of the Czech Republic. "The rejection of such public acknowledgment is problematic for many reasons. If the reason nominees do not want to participate and receive the award is their dissatisfaction with the political situation in the Czech Republic, we would like to point out that the Roma Spirit prize does not bear responsibility for the situation and that such a gesture will most probably be welcomed only by those who speak out against minorities," reads a statement issued yesterday by the foundation.
Musician Gejza Horváth and educator Emil Ščuka have publicly refused to attend the ceremony on 10 December, prompting the foundation to respond. News server Romea.cz publishes its statement in full translation below.
Statement of the Michael Kocáb Foundation about International Human Rights Day and the 2016 Roma Spirit awards in the Czech Republic
The Roma Spirit Awards are an event that is supposed to bring society together and draw attention to efforts to promote positive coexistence. When, after a three-year pause, we began running the 2013 Roma Spirit Awards on a nonprofit basis, people wrote to tell us how brilliant it was that we had again revived the tradition.
The inspiring feedback from the people in the regions who have been nominated for this award assures us that it is a meaningful acknowledgement and support for the aid these people provide and the work they do, which is frequently not easy, in the places where they are active and where they are living. By making their positive examples visible, we are delivering to society, through the nationally televised recording of the ceremony, the proof that positive coexistence is an option, and in these times, each and every piece of evidence of that is important.
The Roma Spirit Award is a prize given by members of the public who nominate individuals or organizations whose work they value. The nomination jury, in accordance with the assessment criteria, chooses three nominees for the final round in each category (if there are enough nominations).
We are aware that practically all of the nominees deserve acknowledgement. The award for a category, however, can only be received by just one nominee, chosen by the main jury.
This is not a prize from the Czech Republic, not a prize from the foundation, and not a prize from Michael Kocáb as an individual, but an expression of respect for the work of a specific individual from the public. The rejection of such public acknowledgment is problematic for many reasons.
If the reason nominees do not want to participate and receive the award is their dissatisfaction with the political situation in the Czech Republic, we would like to point out that the Roma Spirit prize does not bear responsibility for the situation and that such a gesture will most probably be welcomed only by those who speak out against minorities. From the beginnning, we have always been aware of the dignity of the occasion on which these awards are given, International Human Rights Day.
This day is becoming even more topical now, and we also feel the need to emphasize this aspect of the award, including in the context of the recent unfortunate incident in Žatec. We want to gradually shift the center of gravity of this event toward emphasizing the human rights dimension of the awards given.
We are being led to that decision by our obligations to and responsibility for Roma Spirit, which flow not just from the history of this award, the beginnings of which were supported by Czech President Václav Havel, but also by the personal message we have received from Pope Francis and our developing collaboration with the Embassy of the United States of America in the Czech Republic, with Czech Television, and our renewed collaboration with the Czech Culture Ministry. A boycott, even if just by individuals, could result in termination of a platform that it would be good to preserve, both as a bridge between people of different opinions and as a retaining wall against the dissemination of hatred and segregation.
The Michael Kocáb Foundation wants to bestow the Roma Spirit Awards this year and is looking forward to all who will attend the ceremony. We look forward to seeing you on 10 December at the Prague Crossroads.
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