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Czech broadcast authority: TV news misidentifying burkinis as regular clothes failed basic duty to viewers

12.8.2017 20:07
In July 2017 the photographed presence of two Muslim women wearing burkinis to a Czech swimming pool sparked outrage among Czech Internet users. (PHOTO:  Facebook, collage
In July 2017 the photographed presence of two Muslim women wearing burkinis to a Czech swimming pool sparked outrage among Czech Internet users. (PHOTO: Facebook, collage

The Czech Council on Radio and Television Broadcasting (RRTV) has launched an administrative proceedings with the commercial TV Prima station over its reportage entitled "Clothed Muslim women swim in pool". The station broadcast the report during its evening news program on 10 July and informed the public that Muslim women at Prague's Aquapalace Čestlice has gone swimming while dressed, i.e., in clothing that broke hygiene regulations, allegedly endangering other swimmers' health.

The reportage sparked a wave of contradictory reactions and the RRTV began to involve itself on the basis of complaints about whether the station had upheld the rules of balance and objectivity when it broadcast the story. "The reportage at issue failed to meet its duty to report on the news in a balanced, objective way when it gave viewers a specifically pre-defined opinion of the event by telling them the women involved had gone swimming in everyday clothing, not in so-called 'burkinis'," the RRTV said.

According to the council, that failure is apparent both from the overall framing of the reportage and from the way it constructed its interviews to be predominantly with biased information sources. The only source refuting the claim that the women were swimming in everyday clothing was an employee of the Aquapalace Čestlice.

The staffer's testimony is absolutely overwhelmed by all the other information in the reportage even though it is the most legitimate information source, as he is the only person interviewed who was directly at the scene where the Muslim women were swimming. Despite his testimony, the reportage functions according to the assumption that the women swimming were not wearing burkinis, but everyday outerwear.

That assumption is based on the opinion of one unidentified source and on the opinion expressed by a Pavlína Bitarová, an ex-Muslim and supporter of an organization disseminating hatred against Muslims called "We Don't Want Islam in the Czech Republic", who gives her opinion on the basis of looking at photographs posted to an online social networking site. From those opinions the authors of the reportage deduced that the women could have endangered other swimmers.

"The covered swimming women are presented not just as something strange and unusual, but also as potentially problematic, something viewers should be concerned about," RRTV said. Council chair Ivan Krejčí told news server that the reportage was on the borderline of instigating hatred.

TV Prima now faces the threat of a fine for broadcasting unbalanced reporting. The RRTV said this was not the first time the station has violated the principle of objectivity in news reporting - the council found that in March and April 2016 the station repeatedly added evaluative commentary to its reportages about Iraqi refugees, presenting those opinions as if they were facts.

bau, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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