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Bothered by how the media report on Romani people? ROMEA wants to hear from you

Prague, 29.12.2014 5:41, (ROMEA)

"One of the main roles in society's shift toward extremism and radicalization in relation to Romani people is played by the media," says Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of ROMEA, o.p.s. "Ever more frequently, in media of all kinds, we are encountering journalists who report about Romani people superficially, without any knowledge, or without sufficient reflection on the context of a story."

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ROMEA has decided to call on those members of the public who are not indifferent to how some media report about Romani people to speak up.

Anyone who discovers media outputs about Romani people that are discriminatory, that feature disinformation, that lack objectivity, that are misleading, or that are racist can get involved. "All you have to do is write to - it is best to directly send us a link in the case of online media, or in the case of print media or a radio or television broadcast, send us information we can use to track down that particular media feature. We will start a dialogue with the editors of the media in question, provide them with precise information, warn them of mistakes and ask them to take an objective approach to their reporting. We will publicize selected cases, so people will have the opportunity to get feedback about the impact of contacting us," Ryšavý explains.

What specific mistakes do the media usually make? They often employ generalizations and negative stereotypes, unnecessarily emphasize ethnicity in news reporting, or publish imprecise content in their articles or reportage.

In recent years in the Czech Republic it has been no exception to see completely fabricated reports about Roma being published by some media and uncritically reprinted by others. A recent example of this is the fabricated news item about a (non-existent) Romani treasurer who allegedly robbed a supposedly newly-created (but actually non-existent) "European Romani Party" in the Czech Republic.

Many media outlets have also taken to using the pejorative shorthand of "inadaptables" or "untouchables" to refer to Romani people; moreover, very problematic claims about Roma are made by speakers who are not a priori perceived to be racists - such as Parliamentary politicians, regional politicians, and representatives of parties not considered extremist (for example, Jiří Čunek, Jaroslav Doubrava, Liana Janáčková  or Jaroslav Doubrava), claims that the media simply reiterate without challenging or commenting on them. "Previously fringe topics that have been trademarked by the extremists for some time now are being taken up by so-called democratic politicians to score political points," Ryšavý says.

There are many causes for this deterioration in the media's approach, including the reduced accountability of editors, journalists and publishers for their own behavior compared to the first decade post-1989. The media are no longer a subject of criticism and prefer profits to an effort at objective reporting and professional ethics.

Another big problem is discrimination against Romani people when it comes to their accessing the media should they be involved as figures in news reporting. Journalists often do not respect Romani people as equal partners to the representatives of the majority society or as people who have their own opinions and the right to express them.

These negative trends that the ROMEA organization has long been following, pointing out and trying to turn around have been confirmed by the statistical results of the Analysis of the Media Depiction of Romani People in the Czech Media published by the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion. Our campaign calling on the public to become involved in this "watchdog" activity with respect to following the media and caring about the way they report about Roma is part of a project endeavoring to reduce discrimination and racism through a more objective depiction of Romani people in the media.

Other components of this project are daily monitoring and correcting of media outputs, a Romani media service, our own reporting on Romani themes for news server and support for journalism students and media training.


Supported by a grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants

bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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