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Civil society members of Czech Govt Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs criticize media's anti-Romani campaign

Prague, 7.5.2012 21:17, (ROMEA)

Civil society members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs have thoroughly protested the way in which some Czech media outlets report on criminal activity for which Romani people are either actually or allegedly responsible. Members of the "Roma Commission" have called on the editors-in-chief of Czech television stations and other periodicals to uphold the journalists' ethical codex and to make sure that the only information that appears in the news is information that has been properly verified. "We are also calling on the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting to address the completely intentional campaign conducted by TV NOVA, which is influencing the racist atmosphere in the Czech Republic in a completely fundamental way," their declaration reads. News server Romea.cz publishes their press release below in full translation.

Press release by the civil society members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs

The civil society members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs thoroughly protest the way in which some Czech media outlets report on criminal activity for which Romani people are either actually or allegedly responsible. From the events of the past few days, the reporting on these pathological phenomena has been conducted as a completely intentional campaign, wherein, for example, TV NOVA (as well as other media outlets) directly designate the perpetrators of criminal activity as Romani even though no relevant evidence of the perpetrators' ethnicity exists. Often the testimony of a crime victim alone is considered sufficient to determine an alleged perpetrator's ethnicity.

In recent days we have also noted completely fabricated reports of criminal activities where the non-existent perpetrators have also been labeled Romani. In Liberec region alone, approximately eight such crimes have been reported (according to information provided by police spokesperson Vlasta Suchánková). The peak of this was the fabricated report of an attack on a 15-year-old girl. TV NOVA reported she was attacked by three Romani men who cut her up and demanded cash and food from her. This incident later proved to have been completely fabricated, but there has been no widespread dissemination of that completely essential information.

According to police statistics, approximately 900 crimes are reported to authorities in the Czech Republic every day. Over the last few weeks, however, crime reporters have been concerning themselves, in some cases, almost exclusively with criminal activity actually or allegedly committed by Romani people. Under no circumstances do we deny that the perpetrators of some crimes are Romani; rather, we are protesting the way in which some media outlets present this information, intentionally choosing to report only on crimes for which Romani people are actually or allegedly responsible to the exclusion of reporting on crimes committed by non-Romani people. When society generalizes that all Romani people are criminals, all Romani people living in the Czech Republic are put at risk.

This anti-Romani campaign, however, does not only concern violent criminal activity, as is shown by a recent completely fabricated report about a newly-established Romani political party allegedly being robbed by its own treasurer. This completely fabricated report, published by Parlamentní listy, was taken up without any verification and reprinted by most Czech media outlets. We appreciate those media outlets which have managed to apologize for spreading this disinformation.

Disinformation of this kind completely and fundamentally strengthens anti-Romani sentiment in society, as well as the influence of extremist groups who profit from such sentiments. The civil society members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs call on the editors-in-chief of Czech television stations and other periodicals to uphold the journalists' ethical codex and to make sure that the only information that appears in the news is information that has been properly verified. We are also calling on the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting to address the completely intentional campaign conducted by TV NOVA, which is influencing the racist atmosphere in the Czech Republic in a completely fundamental way.

Gwendolyn Albert, tisková zpráva, Press release by the civil society members of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Community Affairs, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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