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Czech activist accuses two media outlets of producing disinformation and lies

Prague, 19.1.2012 19:09, (ROMEA)

There are situations in which any normal person, like it or not, is going to get dirty: A miner underground, a politician being lobbied, a janitor working with garbage, or a columnist going through the journalistic sewer of Czech media outlets like Eportál and Parlamentní listy (PL). The content of your average septic tank is clear, and the facsimile of that content in written form looks, for example, like what I am about to describe.

Political tabloid PL has published an article which has appeared under more than one headline online. Its most recent headline is: "Kostlán on the death of a Romani man in Tanvald - abuses police and town for not financing funeral" ("Kostlán o smrti Roma v Tanvaldu. Nadává policii i městu, které nedalo na pohřeb.") This was PL's take on a report published yesterday on news server Romea.cz under the following headlines: in English, "Czech activist alleges reconstruction of shooting incident in Tanvald was one-sided", in Czech, "František Kostlán: Rekonstrukce tanvaldské střelby proběhla jednostranně, odůvodnění státní zástupkyně je demagogické."

That report included the information that the Romani community had undertaken a collection for the funeral of the man shot to death in Tanvald and that the town had not made a financial contribution to the funeral. The second part of the report describes developments in the Tanvald case, in which a pensioner shot one Romani man to death and injured another, allegedly in self-defense. The report includes my statement on the matter, which was:

" 'This is crude demagoguery on the part of the state prosecutor. The gunshot victim was interrogated by police one time, in the hospital just after the shooting at a moment when he was under the influence of sedation. At that particular moment, he probably really couldn't remember anything, he could have been in shock, but that does not mean he has lost his memory. The impression I have is that either the police or the state prosecutor were afraid the gunshot victim would remember something during a reconstruction. I think any honest judge must label such a one-sided reconstruction as a procedure which openly sides with one of the two sides of this conflict. I have never made any claims about how the whole incident went down, I wasn't there, it could have happened one way or the other, and I still am not making any claims about what happened. However, as we can see from this botched reconstruction, the work of the Czech Police and the state prosecutor's office cannot be relied on,' František Kostlán, an activist who has long followed cases of hate violence, told news server Romea.cz."

Let's now take a look at what the Romea report looks like after it has passed through the journalistic septic tank. (PL) intentionally labeled the report published by news server Romea.cz as my work in order to use it against me and the ROMEA association. In one of its previous headlines, PL wrote that it was ROMEA that was "abusing" the police and the town. PL claims that I am "abusing" Tanvald for not paying for the funeral and that I am "abusing" the police over their investigation of the case. Both are lies.

"It is interesting that the article includes criticism of the Mayor of Tanvald for refusing to contribute the funeral of the gunshot victim," PL writes. That is the first lie. I am not quoted in this article as making any comment on the approach taken by the town of Tanvald toward the funeral for the deceased Romani man. No one is quoted in the article as bearing any sort of grudge against the mayor, not to mention "abusing" him - not me, and not anyone else (and there are no such quotes about the municipality in general, either). What Romea.cz reported was purely the information that had been reported by news server iDNES.cz in its article "Pohřeb zastřeleného Roma zaplatila sbírka, město peníze nedalo" ("Funeral of Romani gunshot victim paid for by collection, town did not contribute money").

I am also not "abusing" the police in the article (PL's second lie). I am merely giving my opinion on how the reconstruction of the case was performed and I am responding to the statement made by the state prosecutor, who is the only person giving statements on the case to the media. I am not even "abusing" her, I am merely giving my opinion that one of her many statements was demagogic.

Other obvious lies are being circulated by the anti-Romani, ultra-conservative leaning clique at the online septic tank that is Eportál.cz. Here also, everything starts with the headline: "At Romea.cz it's clear: The poor young black guy in Tanvald is the victim of a kinky old fascist and the racist system of the Czech Republic" ("Na Romea.cz mají jasno: Chudák mladej tanvaldskej černej kluk je obětí starého zvrhlého fašouna a rasistického systému v ČR.").

This piece, to which the cowardly author has not signed his or her name (it is attributed merely to the "editors") is also intentionally spreading lies, but it doesn't stop there. The method now being used by Eportál.cz was widespread prior to November '89 in the campaigns of denunciation and disinformation conducted by the StB (the Communist political police). The text of the article makes the claims seem reliable on a first reading, while the meaning of the piece as a whole twists them and shifts them onto what the authors consider the "correct level." Take, for example, this paragraph:

"That's why romea.cz should not be misusing the unfortunate events in Tanvald. The investigation is still ongoing and it is unethical at the very least for the editors at romea.cz to try to induce the impression that the case is not being investigated fairly, i.e., that the police officers and state prosecutor are biased because two Romani men are involved in the case."

Romea.cz is not "misusing" anything and is not trying to "induce" any such impression - that is the first piece of disinformation being spread by Eportálu.cz - and certainly not because the case is about two Romani men, which is the second piece of disinformation. There is nothing of the sort in any article on Romea.cz (and nothing in the piece that PL misinterpreted) - nobody has made any such claims. The only statement made about the Tanvald case on Romea.cz is the one that was quoted yesterday, and I never claimed any such thing. I am not doubting the entire investigation, I am merely criticizing the one-sided way in which the reconstruction of the event took place, and I am not doing that because I suspect the police officers and state prosecutor of bias against Romani people - I do not suspect them of bias - but because I have doubts as to whether a reconstruction performed with only one of the people involved in the incident is just.

Another paragraph from the Eportál.cz article reads: "It is an error of the gentlemen who edit romea.cz to hysterically sound the alarm in advance and do their best to view this 'completely ordinary' crime case through the lens of discrimination, if not direct racism." The gentlemen who edit Romea.cz, of course, do not view anything through such a lens, are not sounding any alarms, and are not doing anything hysterically.

In its "processing" of the same article, PL neglected to quote the following passage from my quoted opinion, which was included in the report on Romea.cz: "I have never made any claims about how the whole incident went down, I wasn't there, it could have happened one way or the other, and I still am not making any claims about what happened." Naturally, PL did this intentionally in order to better incite its readers against me and against Romea.cz.

From that statement it is clear that there is no hysterical sounding of an alarm here, no viewing of the matter through the lens of discrimination or direct racism. Eportál.cz, understandably, has stuck to the disinformation that PL produced by leaving out that essential part of the message. The editors at that website are not concerned with the truth, but with denouncing those whom they consider their enemies, namely, the ROMEA association, news server Romea.cz, and me.

Elsewhere in its account of the Romea.cz reporting, Eportál says it is too soon to evaluate the entire case. Of course, Romea.cz has never done anything of the sort in any of its articles. It is Eportál.cz which then goes on to analyze the various ways how and why the incident might have taken place.

Here at Romea.cz, therefore, nothing is "clear". The "poor young black guy in Tanvald" does not necessarily have to have been the victim of the "kinky old fascist and the racist system of the Czech Republic" as the manipulative Eportál headline reads. The pensioner who fired his weapon could have been defending himself from attack by two Romani men, or he could have shot them for other reasons than self-defense.

Until a court issues its verdict in the case, both the pensioner/shooter and the Romani men involved in this incident have the right to the presumption of innocence. Until a verdict is delivered, all three should be considered innocent, by everyone. Only a court verdict that has taken effect will justify the opinion that the Romani men were to blame, but many journalists and online "discussers" are already frequently claiming they are guilty today. That's all there is to say.

František Kostlán, Gwendolyn Albert, František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Views: 733x

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