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Czech Council for Radio and TV Broadcasting: TV NOVA illegally inciting hatred against Romani people

Prague, 5.9.2012 23:26, (ROMEA)
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At its 16th session on 4 September 2012, the Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting discussed the first results of an analysis evaluating how the TV NOVA station has been reporting on events in its "Television News" (Televizní noviny) program featuring either the actual or alleged involvement of members of the Romani minority and what the impact of that reporting has been. The analytical materials evaluating the issue of Romani people's media image focused on the presentation of Romani people in the context of crime reporting on TV NOVA's news programming from 1 January 2012 - 20 February 2012.

The materials discussed today were only the initial results of this analysis, which will continue at the Council's next session on 18 September with the conclusions drawn from another analysis of TV NOVA's news programming in this regard from 21 February - 31 May 2012. On the basis of the analysis mapping the presentation of Romani people on TV NOVA's news programming in detail during the first two months of this year, the Council has adopted the following ruling:

The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (hereinafter the Council), as part of the scope of its activity established by Section § 5 letters a) and f) and Section 59 paragraphs. 1–3 of Law No. 231/2001 Coll., on the operation of radio and television broadcasting and on amendments to other laws (hereinafter Law No. 231/2001 Coll.), as currently worded, warns the licensed operator CET 21 spol. s r.o., tax id no. 45800456, headquartered at Kříženeckého nám. 1078/5, Praha 5, PSČ 152 00, that it has violated Section 32 paragraph 1 letter i) of Law No. 231/2001 Coll. through its broadcasting of the "Television News" program from 1 January - 20 February 2012, which repeatedly presented information about members of the Romani minority that had been selected and treated in such a way as to violate the operator's obligation not to include material in programs which corroborates stereotypical prejudices about ethnic or racial minorities.

During this period, the "Television News" program presented information linked to ethnic Romani people, predominantly in the area of crime, that was practically exclusively negative. Unlike its reporting on crimes committed by members of the majority population, the program made a point of identifying perpetrators by ethnicity when they were Romani. The program depicted Romani people exclusively as a troubled minority from the standpoint of crime or social issues, and also labeled dark-skinned individuals as Romani irrespective of whether they actually were Romani, or rather, irrespective of whether the people in question identify as Romani. Verbal collocations were used which led to the automatic linking of problematic locations and situations with Romani people ("Romani residential hotel", etc.) irrespective of the actual state of affairs.

In the case of the reporting on the shooting in Tanvald, those involved in the incident were labeled "youths" in the reporting on 1 January. At the time, it was assumed they were the victims. When the consideration arose that they might have also been assailants, TV NOVA identified them verbally as "Romani" (in its reporting on 2, 3, 4, 5, 11 and 13 January). Racist statements were also part of the TV NOVA's newscasts; footage was shown of an unidentified person saying: "I can say he shot too few [Romani people], because [Romani people] attack people here at high noon in the park, right?". The editors did not correct this assertion.

While reporting on the demonstrations in North Bohemia, the program gave room exclusively to the statements of extremists and their sympathizers participating in the anti-Romani demonstrations (in the reporting on 8, 15 and 29 January). On 3, 8 and 15 January, the program reported that the issue in North Bohemia was that the presence of members of the Romani minority was the sole cause of a complex situation there with respect to security and social interaction.

According to sociological studies, Romani people are perceived by the majority society in the Czech Republic as persons with a heightened tendency toward aggressive, criminal behavior and toward abusing the social welfare system. The news reporting on TV NOVA took no interest in the actual state of affairs; rather, it exactly reproduced the prejudices held by the majority society. The reporting did not distinguish between various groups of Romani people, to say nothing of different Romani individuals, and did not concern itself with the question of how difficult it can be to determine someone's ethnic origins. The reporting thereby strengthened the negative prejudicial stereotypes governing the general public's perception of the Romani minority. Such reinforcement can incite and support a racist, xenophobic atmosphere in society.

Given the undeniable fact that the atmosphere in society, particularly in some territories of the republic, is significantly troubled with respect to coexistence with the Romani minority and has been exacerbated to such a degree that clashes and racially motivated assaults have occurred, it is necessary to view the reporting procedure of this news program, which is the most-watched news program in the country, as having been so problematic as to pose a danger to society. The Council has established a deadline of seven days from the delivery of this warning by which the licensed operator must issue a correction.

The Council, by virtue of the powers established in ordinance Section 5 letters a) and f) and Section 59 paragraphs1–3 of Law No. 231/2001 Sb., on the operation of radio and television broadcasting and on amendments to other laws (hereinafter Law No. 231/2001 Coll.), as currently worded, also warns the licensed operator CET 21 spol. s r.o., tax id number 45800456, headquartered at Kříženeckého nám. 1078/5, Praha 5, PSČ 152 00, that it has violated ordinance Section 32 paragraph 1 letter c) of Law No. 231/2001 Coll., by broadcasting five segments of its "Television News" program on 5, 8, 15, 18 and 29 January 2012, specifically because of the way those segments reported on an attack committed against a family in Varnsdorf. The licensed broadcaster violated its obligation to ensure that broadcast programs do not incite hatred on the basis of skin color or membership in an ethnic or national minority.

The program reported on an assault committed against a family, repeatedly stating that the perpetrators of the assault had been Romani. When reporting on the subsequent demonstrations in Varnsdorf, the program labeled Romani people as being to blame for the tense situation in North Bohemia. The program gave no room to members of the Romani minority to express their views. All of the room devoted to statements by local residents was exclusively devoted to representatives of the majority society who expressed their fears of ethnic Romani people. The program repeatedly advertised when the demonstrations would take place, calling them anti-Romani. The authors of the reporting also used information about the death of the woman assaulted in a manipulative way for an ulterior motive, repeatedly directly linking her death to the "Romani attack" even though the fact of the matter was that the woman did not die until several days after the assault. Her death was from natural causes as the result of a long-term, severe illness.

The program did not present truthful reporting on the situation as a whole, but used misleading, simplified information and an unbalanced presentation of the issue to contribute toward exacerbating the situation in North Bohemia. Through its inclusion and manipulation of misleading, ungrounded information taken out of context, including the intentional construction of a link between the death of the woman, the "Romani attack", and the convening of anti-Romani demonstrations, the "Television News" program incited hatred against a group of residents on the basis of their ethnic origin and on the basis of the principle of collective blame, without distinguishing individual behaviors. The Council is establishing a deadline of seven days from the date this warning is delivered by which the licensed operator must issue a correction.

On the basis of Law No.. 231/2001 Coll., the Council monitored TV NOVA's "Television News" program's broadcasts during the first five months of 2012, and appraised its news reporting on criminal acts in which ethnic Romani people were identified, in response to the so-called Břeclav scandal in which a seriously injured 15-year-old boy from Břeclav claimed to have been beaten by three young Romani people. After several weeks of police investigation, it turned out the boy had invented the story of the assault. The entire affair prompted an enormous response in the media. Romani organizations began to turn to the relevant state authorities with the demand that the authorities see to it that the media, in particular TV NOVA, stop spreading similar unverified information, as it results in exacerbating relations between the majority society and Romani people. One of the state bodies contacted was the Council, which was called upon to take steps to restrict the media's role in reinforcing ethnic tensions.

In Prague, 4 September 2012, Kateřina Kalistová, chair of the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting

Gwendolyn Albert, tisková zpráva, press release of the Czech Council of Radio and Television Broadcasting (Rada pro rozhlasové a televizní vysílání), translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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