Brand-new Czech Chief Public Health Officer has a history of anti-Romani racism in her previous public communications about COVID-19
The Czech News Agency has reported that the new Chief Public Health Officer for the Czech Republic will be the current director of the Moravian-Silesian Regional Public Health Department, Pavla Svrčinová, but its brief announcement of that news failed to mention that in October, Svrčinová shared a racist joke on her Facebook profile in association with the Government's measures to fight COVID-19. Whether anti-Romani racism is meant to be the new style of communications to induce the public in the Czech Republic to comply with the Government's measures against the pandemic, some of which have previously only remained in effect for a few hours, is probably a question for its main PR guru, Marek Prchal.
Last October, Svrčinová shared the following anti-Romani joke: "Fero Lakatoš robbed his own apartment today. He is following the quarantine rules and working from home. Be like Fero."
After a screenshot of that post was massively shared online and influential journalists began to comment on it, she deleted it around 19:30 yesterday evening, and after 20:00 her Facebook profile was nowhere to be found. Svrčinová then gave the iDNES.cz news server a classic excuse for having posted the meme, claiming to have nothing to do with it and denying that she was the person who had actually shared the joke.
"What are you talking about? I know nothing about it. Actually I do not comprehend how it got on my profile. I don't like such things, and for that reason I have absolutely shut down my profile," she told the news server.
There is clear evidence, however, that it was Svrčinová who shared the racist joke to her profile, which is now deleted from Facebook. Journalist Jindřich Šídlo of the Seznam Zprávy news server laconically commented by sharing a screenshot of her post on Twitter with the comment "White Hygiene Power".
More critical comments continued to pile up yesterday on social media about the meme. "The statement by the new Chief Public Health Officer is a slap in the face and an insult mainly to all the Romani healthcare workers and employees of hospitals who are fighting COVID-19 on the front lines," Miroslav Brož, a human rights activist currently working at a hospital in Ústí nad Labem, told news server Romea.cz.
"For example, in our hospital, in addition to a Romani doctor in the infectious disease ward and several nurses, there are many Romani men and women in non-medical positions who are absolutely indispensable to hospital operations, such as drivers, janitors, and in catering operations," Brož said. "They, too, are fighing COVID-19 on the front lines right now."
"We condemn the post shared by Pavla Svrčinová on her Facebook page. It is unacceptable that a person who holds such racist opinions should perform this highest of public functions," posted the In IUSTITIA organization, which aids hate crime victims.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš told Czech Television yesterday that Svrčinová is considered one of the best people in her field and that he hopes she will become a face that people will trust when they see her in the media. "I think it's not appropriate for members of the Government to make predictions [about the pandemic] that turn out not to happen," he said.
"We've already been through that more than once here," Babiš told the public broadcaster. Svrčinová (57) has led the Moravian-Silesian Regional Public Health Department since January 2020.
She is an expert in the protection and support of public health and has specialized for many years in nutrition and food safety as an auditor at EU level. Five years ago she applied to serve as Chief Public Health Officer in the Czech Republic during the selection procedure for a new candidate, but because of the just-adopted law on public service, her previous work for the European Commission was not recognized as sufficiently qualifying.
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