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Analysis: Czech media baiting Romani family attacked by ultra-right arsonists

Prague, 16.3.2012 20:54, (ROMEA)
Anna Siváková speaking at the "Concert for Natálka" in Benátky nad Jizerou, which was organized in April 2010 by Richard Samko of Czech Television, Martin Čurej, and Josef Pešta of the Respekt club there. Photo:  František Kostlán

Baiting and revenge are the only way to describe the ongoing stalking of the family of Pavel Kudrik and Anna Siváková, who were attacked in Vítkov in 2009 by ultra-right arsonists who have since been convicted. The family has been put through a great deal since those events. The Czech media are now covering the fact that they have been subjected to collections proceedings - proceedings they have only learned of from journalists. According to the collections agents' chamber, in addition to one proceeding that has been resolved, they may have two more such proceedings ahead of them.

The first collections proceedings has been halted and the family's debt has reportedly been paid by the MobilKom company, which originally filed a collections motion for an alleged back telephone bill of CZK 3 000. The collections agents turned that into a demand for almost CZK 28 000, with the difference comprised of interest and fees for the collections agents' "work".

Anna Siváková, however, is convinced she should not have to pay for the telephone. Several years ago she believed a sales agent who told her the phone was free of charge. We know from the practices of some firms that is completely possible that they attract customers with such offers while the fine print of the arrangements includes something entirely different.

The second of the three debts, for which the repossession of the family's house has been proposed, concerns their allegedly not having made health insurance payments. "This is a very old debt from the time when Natálka's older sister was born. It concerns health insurance payments, but Ms Siváková claims she paid that debt and even has receipts of payment," said the director of the Life Together (Vzájemné soužití) civic association, Kumar Vishwanathan. It is not yet clear what the third alleged debt concerns.

Last year the Czech courts ordered a total of 936 000 collections proceedings, and this year that number is expected to be the same if not more. However, for a certain type of media outlet, the most important collections proceeding of all is this one for CZK 28 000 for a phone bill. Why? Because they can cash in on the sensation surrounding the alleged debtors.

This life of this Romani family has been brutally violated by murderous arsonists, but the media are not interested in the fact that little Natálie will soon have to go for another of many operations. They are not interested in the fact that the arsonists, who according to the verdict against them are to pay Natálie CZK 9.5 million and her parents CZK 72 000, have not paid the family a single crown yet. However, the media are interested in the fact that the family has not paid these alleged debts. The house the family now lives in was bought by people taking up a collection, which is interesting for the media, as it attracts readers and viewers to whom they can communicate that the people who contributed toward buying that house were chumps who should make sure they never participate in anything like that again.

It is precisely this kind of simplistic view of these events that predominates among some journalists and members of the public, and where Romani people are concerned, doubly so. The media can be satisfied with the results of their actions so far. Anna Siváková has had a breakdown as a result of their campaign, but their readership and viewer numbers have increased and more completely "clean" money has flowed into the coffers of the owners.

Few people are taking any interest in the fact that every day little Natálie spends in the hospital costs the family CZK 200, that they have to buy ointment and other medicines on top of that. No one will hire Pavel Kudrik permanently because he has to take care of his other three daughters when Anna Siváková is in the hospital with Natálie, and she is there very often. No one is interested in the fact that the other three daughters and both parents of this family need psychological help, because they have been very severely harmed by the racist arson attack.

Thanks to this media baiting, those whom expert witness Ivo Svoboda recently correctly referred to as "deprived, stupid brutes" are once more carrying on in broad daylight. Various vulgar people who view the world with hatred, especially where Romani people are concerned, are taking their revenge on this family. These are people who admire the racist arsonists, who object to the length of their sentences, people who cannot abide coexisting with those from various cultures or any other kind of difference, people who fight against the all but nonexistent political correctness in this country, who are really after pushing the borders of ordinary human decency more toward their own pathological vision of the world.

There is no point in listing all of the articles and opinions voiced in online "discussions" which are so choked with hatred and racism here. Anyone can see them by using an online search engine for just a few moments.

What is even worse is that these deprived, stupid brutes are directly attacking the family of Pavel Kudrik and Anna Siváková, as well as others who are doing their best to help them with their heavy burden. Detestable e-mails, hateful shouts on the street, malicious gossip and telephone calls are a daily occurrence.

"I don't even answer the telephone anymore. The people calling keep swearing vulgar insults at me, calling me a 'swine', a 'cunt', and saying I'll 'go to the gas chambers along with the Gypsies'. They also hatefully curse at us in e-mails addressed to our association. If that family had been white, everyone would feel sorry for them, but because they are Romani, part of the public criticizes them," Helena Jedináková of the Life Together association, who helps young Natálie's family, recently told news server Romea.cz.

News server Romea.cz has had the same experience. Hateful racist gossip addressed to this particular family is regularly sent to our e-mail address.

"Anna Siváková feels very poorly, psychologically speaking, because of the media interest and after reading some of the discussions online. She has shut herself up at home and is not answering the phone. The family has no money. Hatred against them on online discussions and fora has increased unbelievably," Jedináková said.

Jedináková went on to say that "luckily we have also found good people who want to contribute to the family financially and who are encouraging us, I quote, 'not to think about those idiots or pay attention to them'. I thank those people greatly. Their letters and phone calls have given me a great deal of strength and inspiration to keep working."

She also reminded us that Life Together assists not only young Natálie's family, but all vulnerable families when they request cooperation. "If it's in our power to do so, we will be very glad to help everyone," she said.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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