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Commentary: Romani guests on Czech TV show aren't helping their image

Prague, 14.1.2014 22:21, (ROMEA)
Michaela Jílková (right), the moderator of the
Michaela Jílková (right), the moderator of the "Máte slovo" ("You Have the Floor") program on Czech Television behaves like a clamoring concierge who knows nothing about the issues being discussed but is brilliant at sparking negative emotions on both sides of any debate. (Photo: Print Screen from the program)

Michaela Jílková, a Czech Television "moderator", has once again succeeded in pulling off a tour de force. On her tabloid talk show "Máte slovo" ("You Have the Floor"), through which guests sometimes spread their racist and xenophobic attitudes, she has once again incited the "decent" and the "inadaptables" (her words) against one another.  

As has been noted many times before, Jílková's primary aim is to get the guests on her program to hound one another - she is not interested in a competent discussion of any particular problem, nor in forecasting solutions. This is not, however, just about Jílková or Czech Television, but about those who participate on this show, including the Romani guests.     

Shouting, not discussion

This particular program is an embarrassment to all of public broadcasting. Jílková may "moderate" it, but she knows nothing about the matters under discussion or the essence of the problems.

What she is very good at is assuming a "superior" position and lecturing her guests whenever they say something that doesn't fall in line with her own (mostly misguided) notions. She is brilliant at hounding individuals and groups and at creating a pseudo-debate in the studio where  groups shout one another down instead of sticking to the topic.   

Last week's episode, with only a few exceptions, was a classic example. The positive examples I have in mind were the contributions by Mayor Drahomíra Miklošová of Obrnice, who did her best to constructively go over the draft legislation being discussed. 

Guest Jaroslav Suchý was also unafraid to remind Czech Senator Doubrava of his previous racist remarks during the program. By so doing, he was the only person on the program to put the senator's starting position on relations toward Romani people, and therefore toward the laws that concern them, into the proper context.

"Inadaptable" Jílková

Jílková introduced the expression "inadaptables" into the most recent episode of her program, justifying her use of the term by claiming it is in common usage today. Yes indeed, the expression "inadaptables" is really being used; it has become a nickname or shorthand for Romani people.  

This term is primarily used by people who want to say something negative (and often something that is also untrue) about Romani people, but do not want to be labeled antigypsyists for making such remarks. Jílková also used the counterpoint term "decent" to refer to those who are not "inadaptables."

From this "logic" we can deduce that "decent people" are never the same as Romani people, and vice versa. It is evidently time to complain once again to the Board for Radio and Television Broadcasting (not to the board of Czech Television, as it does not evaluate programs and cannot sanction Czech Television for making mistakes) about this program, or rather, about Czech Television itself.

This is not the first time that Jílková has been criticized by news server Romea.cz or that someone has complained about her inability to "familiarize herself more closely with the topics she covers on her program and the one-sided shift in its discussions targeting Romani people, which she causes by being unable to moderate her program in any way other than that of a tabloid show." In relation to the public broadcasting nature of the institution that employs her, Jílková herself is quite evidently "inadaptable."

The way in which the moderator leads her program is not only undignified and unworthy of Czech Television, it also violates its statutes. As Romani activist Ivana Mariposa Čonková has correctly noted in her own commentary on this issue, Article II of those statutes, called "The Public Service of Czech Television", states that "the main tasks of public service in the area of television broadcasting as established by the law on Czech Television are, in particular, the provision of balanced, impartial, objective, and verified information so members of the public can freely form their own opinions" - the "Máte slovo" show directly contravenes this section of Czech Television's statutes. 

Romani guests aren't helping the program

Citizens who participate in this program, first and foremost its Romani guests, are also to blame for its low level of discussion. While these Romani representatives are getting onto the nation's TV screens, they are often baffled by the task of expressing themselves and making their arguments within the environment of the show.

These participants are inadvertently helping to create exactly the negative image of Romani people that Jílková has been forming on her show (whether she is doing that intentionally or just out of sheer crassness). Unfortunately, Ivana Mariposa Čonková was just such an example in the most recent episode.  

Even though Čonková was well aware of what the program "moderated" by Jílková looks like (she has complained about it once before), she voluntarily signed up to appear on it. She did her best, during her intervention from the studio audience, to put Jílková's actions into the context of her longer-term behavior, but the moderator would not let her succeed.  

It was clear from the start exactly how this would play itself out. What happened on the show fit right in with the usual scenario: Jílková turned Čonková into an "exotic specimen" who doesn't know how to stick to the point. 

The participation of Romani people on this program to discuss topics that affect them is a sign that the community is losing its capacity for judgment and is bordering on masochism. It is sad to watch otherwise brilliant people voluntarily offering themselves up "for the slaughter" by participating.

Czech TV wants emotions, not experts

Czech Television initially turned to us here at the ROMEA association hoping that we would procure them Romani guests for the "Máte slovo" program. We did so one time and one time only.

Whenever we offered the dramaturgs who were then working with the program the names of experts who were qualified to comment on a particular issue, they would reject them, saying they were more interested in someone emotional, someone who would be able to express the right amount of emotion. Ever since then we have strictly refused to recommend anyone to them, as we do not want to contribute to legitimizing a program whose creators are not interested in the actual state of affairs and in addressing the topics raised, but in heightening everyone's emotions. 

On the contrary, we have dissuaded Romani people from participating on that show ever since. It would only make sense for Romani people to participate if they were organized enough to all demonstratively walk out of the studio after the first insult was dealt.


František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Česká televize, Máte slovo, Média, Michaela Jílková, Romové, Romská reprezentace



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