Stano Daniel: A message from Slovakia. First, words fall. Then people.
On Monday, February 26, Slovakia suffered from a shock. The frost outside came into households, offices, and workplaces. It was impossible to feel anything else while looking at the news. A 27-year-old journalist and his partner had been shot dead.
Many world media broadcast the news and it is hard to add to the available information. Therefore, my ambition here is not to become a reporter about the murder of investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner. Rather, this text should be a warning for Roma.
Words precede action
Jan Kuciak was digging in the dirt that leads to top politicians. As a journalist for the aktuality.sk news server he opened up cases that were supposed to stay in the dark. Prime Minister Robert Fico has labeled similar journalists “dirty anti-Slovak prostitutes,” and on one occasion he told a journalist: “If I weren’t in politics, I would deal with you in another way.”
Emotions have flooded Slovakia and the public is calling for answers leading to the identification of the perpetrator. The Government has offered a million euro for information leading to the killer. The murder of a journalist crosses the line. Let’s not forget though, that what was said before this happened crossed the line also.
"Gypsies" and annoying Muslims
The party of Robert Fico declares itself to be Social Democratic, but Roma know them differently. Chairman Fico himself calls Roma “gypsies” (or "Gypsies", it's hard to say from his verbal statements) when he speaks in public. The deputy chair of the party, Interior Minister Robert Kaliňák, encourages police to "bring order" to Roma settlements and praises them despite their being suspected of using unnecessary violence against Romani people. Just a few weeks ago he filmed a video about the “criminality of Roma settlements” while standing in front of the ghetto in Krompachy.
The most influential party in the ruling coalition is known for being able to play any card in order to gain political points. When it was a topic, Fico spoke about "annoying Muslims". When Muslims were no longer a topic, he got back to the Roma. It seems difficult to explicitly determine whether he actually hates Roma, Muslims, and journalists so much, or whether he says these things just to get votes.
Incitement to hatred?
The border between inappropriate comment and incitement to hatred punishable by law is thin. Fico and Kaliňák make sure they do not cross this line, and their statements against journalists are no different. The two cannot be separated entirely, however.
Fico, Kaliňák, and other top politicians create an atmosphere in the country - an environment in which human rights and dignity are not untouchable and can be damaged at any time. Politicians have created an atmosphere in which extremists stand either at the margins of society or actually do what the “decent” Czechs and Slovaks only dare imagine. If the Prime Minister can make statements about "gypsies", "annoying Muslims" or "dirty anti-Slovak prostitutes" (i.e., journalists), what can other members of Parliament do? What comments can we tolerate from a mayor? What would be OK from an ordinary citizen? Politicians need to start thinking about their responsibility, not just for their actions, but also for their words.
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