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January 20, 2022



17 Czech senators say tv report on refugees constitutes illegal incitement to hatred

18.2.2016 23:13
George Batto, an Iraqi refugee in the Czech Republic whose interview with the Prima television station in 2016 was grossly distorted when an interpreter failed to provide an accurate translation of his words. (PHOTO:  TV Prima)
George Batto, an Iraqi refugee in the Czech Republic whose interview with the Prima television station in 2016 was grossly distorted when an interpreter failed to provide an accurate translation of his words. (PHOTO: TV Prima)

News server Marketing&Media reports that on Wednesday, 18 February, 17 members of the Senate of the Czech Republic filed a complaint with the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting over reporting by the Prima television station about Iraqi refugees from Erbil. According to the senators, the reporting may have violated Act No. 231/2001 on the operation of radio and television broadcasting, especially the obligation to not engage in incitement to hatred.

"The reportage seems absolutely not objective and oversimplified to me and my colleagues. I'd even say it was manipulative, and it seems to us that the law may have been broken in this case," Czech Senator Zdeněk Papoušek (Christian Democrats - KDU-ČSL) explained to the news server.

Another 16 senators have also signed on to the text, as has Czech MEP Michaela Šojdrová (KDU-ČSL). Marketing&Media reports that the Council has received "as many as 10" other complaints about the same report.

The Council will review the complaints during its 1 March session. Prima insists it has not manipulated anything and today invited Deputy Czech Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček to defend the station during its main news program.

According to Prima, Křeček has viewed the uncut material for the report in its entirety and said the station did not do anything wrong. Prima has produced six different reports about the Christian refugees, but has never broadcast the entirety of the question that was asked of the refugee shown in the first report.

The refugee's answer to that question included words about a "barn for animals". That segment of the interview was manipulated by the editors to make it seem as if it referred to the housing the refugees are now living in. 

The senators' letter

Dear Members of the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting:

We are contacting you in the matter of a reportage broadcast by FTV Prima on 11 February 2016 about Iraqi asylum-seekers from Erbil who arrived in the Czech Republic several weeks ago. This reportage uses direct footage of the asylum-seekers, speaking through interpreters, and gives the impression that the asylum-seekers are rejecting the apartments offered to them, speaking of them as uncomfortable, "repainted cowsheds", and that they are considering returning to Iraq because of this (which in essence calls into question their right to asylum).

According to statements made by those representing the organizers of the asylum-seekers' travel here (the Generation 21 Foundation) and those who were involved in the interview, however, what that particular asylum-seeker said was fundamentally distorted in the final report. This not only involved a poor translation, but allegedly involved manipulative editing as well.

We are firmly convinced that the current migration crisis is the most serious event underway in present-day Europe (and therefore in the Czech Republic) and that it involves a broad spectrum of very different - and frequently, potentially very serious - consequences. Carefully adhering to the most precise reporting possible to the public, therefore, must be a high priority for all media in this matter.

In this case, unfortunately, the available information indicates that FTV Prima has most probably violated Act No. 231/2001 Coll., on the operation of radio and television broadcasting, as amended, especially Section 32 paragraph 1 letter c), according to which it is the responsibility of the operator "to ensure the programs broadcast do not incite hatred on the basis of sex, race, skin color, language, faith and religion, political or other convictions, national or social origin, membership in an ethnic or national minority, property status, ancestry, or other position", and Section 31 paragraph 2, which establishes the obligation to provide balanced, objective information with a clear distinction between factual information and evaluating commentaries or opinions. We are convinced that the available information sufficiently justifies the suspicion that FTV Prima has engaged in serious wrongdoing in its reporting on what is an essentially important matter.

Therefore,we ask that you review this reportage and, as a result of your deliberations, take measures in response that are clear, effective and peremptory. In these times of exacerbated emotions, each and every half-truth can lead to evil and wrongdoing.

With respect,

Senators of the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic:

Václav Hampl, Zdeněk Papoušek, Petr Šilar, Jan Horník, Alena Šromová, Ivana Cabrnochová, Václav Láska, Jiří Šesták, Miroslav Nenutil, František Bublan, Petr Bratský, Zdeněk Brož, Stanislav Juránek, Jiří Carbol, František Bradáč, Jiří Čunek, Patrik Kunčar

Member of the European Parliament Michaela Šojdrová

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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