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Czech dramaturg resigns after moderators humiliate Romani musicians on live tv

Brno, 28.5.2014 9:47, (ROMEA)
"My granddad was in the Hitler Youth during the war. What about yours, Irena?" A Romani singer with the Gulo Čar band had to face questions like these from moderator Martin Dušek (pictured here) during the 23 May 2014 broadcast of Czech Television's "Tečka páteční noci" program. (PHOTO: Czech Television)

The legendary Czech-Romani funk band Gulo Čar and the Slovak reggae-punk band Smola a Hrušky issued a joint press release yesterday protesting the way in which the moderators of the "Tečka páteční noci" program on Czech Television handled their appearance last Friday just before midnight. The bands say moderator Martin Dušek made humiliating, xenophobic remarks to them during the broadcast. 

"The moderators had no idea who we are, why we were there, what kind of music we perform, and what we write about - that's irritating, but we can take it. What we cannot accept at all were the racist remarks of the moderator, which were made with a seemingly joking exaggeration that unfortunately did not work," said Jozef Kramár, aka "Spoko", who is the frontman for the Smola a Hrušky band.   

The dramaturg of the program, Kamila Zlatušková, has issued a statement attempting to calm the situation that describes it as an enormous misunderstanding. "The entire Tečka team regrets that the way the program was moderated was so hurtful to both guests," Zlatušková told news server Romea.cz.  

Zlatušková also says she will be handing over future dramaturgy of the "Tečka páteční noci" program to a colleague. "For a long time now I have been unable to combine the notion of a controversial, progressive program with the live broadcast format," she said. 

The program is usually moderated by Jiří Havelka. For this episode, however, Martin Dušek was the moderator, together with a singer from the Čokovoko duo, Adéla Elbel.   

Dušek's extremely provocative way of moderating the program made the bands' experience so unpleasant that they subsequently decided to issue a joint press release. Ms Elbel has been criticized as well. 

In addition to Gulo Čar, who are from Brno, and Smola a Hrušky, whose lyrics combat racism and stereotypical ways of viewing the world, the program also featured Romani Studies scholar Helena Sadílková, Romani activist Ivana Čonková, and Alica Heráková, the PR manager of Ghettofest, a street festival of music and theater in Brno. "The program is a late night show format and humor is part of it. Those bands became a target for humor," Dušek defended himself to news server iDNES.cz.     

"We can talk about degrees of sense of humor and taste, but I reject any charges of racism or xenophobia," the moderator said. "I love humor that's on the edge, that mocks stereotypes. It's absurd that the bands took it otherwise. There was a pleasant atmosphere in the studio, and at the end I was dancing around barefoot  with the singer of Gulo Čar. It makes me think someone must have said something to the members of those bands once they got home. I hope they find more self-confidence."  

Dušek reminded news server iDNES.cz that he was most recently charged with racism by members of the now-defunct Workers' Party (Dělnická strana) when he mockingly welcomed them with a Nazi salute during the filming of a documentary. News server Romea.cz presents in full translation below the joint press release by both bands, the press release from dramaturg Kamila Zlatušková, and the official press release of Czech Television on this issue. 

Press release by the bands Gulo Čar and Smola a Hrušky

Czech Television ensures compliance with its Code of Ethics by performers in order to avoid the kinds of excesses for which the "Tečka páteční noci" program has now earned public criticism. Apparently that code does not apply to the behavior and statements of the new moderators of this program.

That was demonstrated during last Friday's live broadcast, which featured performances by the bands Gulo Čar and Smola a Hrušky. Gulo Čar is a legendary funk band, and Smola a Hrušky is a popular reggae-punk band from Slovakia.  

Renowned Romani Studies scholars were also invited to appear on the program with the band. The dramaturgs of the program evidently believed that if they were inviting a Romani band on the program, Romani issues would be the best topic for it. 

Instead of a discussion about music and what is going on with the bands, moderator Martin Dušek and his colleague Adéla Elbel (a singer with Čokovoko) decided to put on their own show full of arrogance and a lot of very bad jokes, to put it mildly. For example, the moderator strayed into a discussion of World War II, asking Irena, the singer of Gulo Čar, whether her grandparents had encountered any discrimination during the war before going on to say "My granddad was in the Hitler Youth during the war. What about yours, Irena?" 

As if that were not enough, for some incomprehensible reason he then introduced the band in German. The humiliating, mocking remarks made by the moderator Adéla, not only to the bands, but also to the Romani Studies scholars invited on the program, did nothing to improve the quality of the show.

Ivana Čonková evidently had enough of Mr Dušek's pretty embarrassing remarks (particularly during the moment when he teased her because of how she was dressed), openly telling him with a smile, "Martin, you are seriously a xenophobe." Jiří Majzlík of Gulo Čar has this to say about the program:  "As musicians we have never before experienced this kind of treatment, such attempted tabloidization, humiliation and insults. We were so disgusted that it was very hard to perform and play our music well. The worst thing was that no one paid any attention to what were were singing about... we have a lot to say about Romani issues, but the moderators just concentrated on how to throw us off and trip us up."    

Vladimír Dirda says:  "We had the feeling that only the gypsy question was being analyzed and that we were there to be interrogated. We will never go on such a program again."

The band Smola a Hrušky basically never got to say anything at all on the program - Dušek seemed to not even know their name, and the band had to sit and listen to statements being made about how Slovakia is like the Balkans without being able to respond. Jozef Kramár, aka "Spoko", the frontman for the band, says:  "The moderators had no idea who we are, why we were there, what kind of music we perform, and what we write about - that's irritating, but we can take it. What we cannot accept at all were the racist remarks of the moderator, which were made with a seemingly joking exaggeration that unfortunately did not work. In Slovakia the issue of discrimination and racial intolerance is key, and we agree on that with the Czech band Gulo Čar and the rapper Supa from the band Moja reč, with whom we felt the need to express our feelings in the form of the hit we recorded together, 'Čierny Biely' [Blacks Whites]. The program was allegedly supposed to be dedicated precisely to that problem and to the situation of Romani people in the Czech Republic. If this is how the subject as such is approached in the Czech Republic, in the way it was presented on Friday by the arrogant and primarily ignorant moderators on Tečka, then we sincerely regret being involved. We love the liberal Czech Republic, but we do believe these moderators should be fired, just as a presenter on the Slovak RTVS station was fired last month over a Facebook status update she made with racist undertones."    

Martin Hlavatý, manager of Smola a Hrušky, adds:  "The fact that the moderators were absolutely unprepared to interview the bands is one thing, but their approach toward the topic of 'Black white let's unite' really got me. The egomania, embarrassing behavior, humiliation, irony and sarcasm of moderator Dušek was over the top - as a band we are prepared to go pretty far ourselves, but we really did not understand it. It must be because we're from the Balkans and all we eat is bananas."   

Viewers following the program posted the following embittered commentaries to Facebook as it was underway:

Viet Anh: As regards the guests, this episode was absolutely perfect. The bands were perfect, I take my hat off to Gulo Čár. However, as far as the presenters go, it was shocking. If I had been there, I would have punched Mr "wannabe" moderator for those totally inappropriate comments and embarrassing displays! The lady presenter at times seemed to not know where she was or what she was doing.

Lukas Kubik: Lord Christ, that is too much - Hitlerjungen????

Alena Cinová: Who are these moderators??!!! This is horrible, terrible... I can't watch!!

Statement from Kamila Zlatušková of Czech Television:

Moderator Martin Dušek is a successful documentary filmmaker and an even more successful provocateur (if the terms "provocation" and "success" even belong together). We gave room to him and to moderator Adéla Elbel on our program with the full awareness that this would be a serious topic on a show with an alternative, edgy format, which includes the moderation.    

The entire team of "Tečka páteční noci", almost without exception, is dedicated to human rights topics in the rest of their work and has zero tolerance for racism, and the outcome of this evening has personally offended me most of all, as I have long worked with Romani children and this entire scandal seems to be an enormous misunderstanding to me. Romani activist Ivanka Čonková, who was also a guest on the program, has told me she also considers it to have been a misunderstanding. 

Ms Čonková says that while the moderator's approach could have been more sensitive, it definitely was not about humiliation or racism. It is necessary to add that Martin Dušek, who is connected to the One World [human rights] film festival, was just standing in for the usual moderator of the program, Jiří Havelka, who was abroad at the time.  

The lighthearted atmosphere in the studio, during which most of the guests were smiling while the debate was underway, and the end where the moderators and protagonists danced together did not reveal any kind of conflict. The entire team of Tečka regrets that the way the program was moderated has hurt both of the bands who were invited.

I am hereby handing over responsibility for the "Tečka páteční noci" program to my colleague, Jiřina Budíková. For a long time now I have been unable to combine the notion of a controversial, progressive program with the live broadcast format.

Statement by Czech Television

The most recent episode of "Tečka páteční noci" from Brno was dedicated to the topic of currently successful Romani bands and to Romani issues in general. The program team chose this subject because most of its members are intensively dedicated to human rights topics in their other projects. 

Kamila Zlatušková, for example, was awarded the Gypsy Spirit Prize by the Office of the Czech Government for her "Ptáčata" project about Romani children, which was also nominated for the EU's CIVIS media prize and the Japan Prize, an international award. Nevertheless, Czech Television is aware that some of the moderators' statements during the program were unfortunate and violated its original dramaturgic intent.  

However, those statements were not meant as insults or a racist, xenophobic displays. Czech Television cannot agree with the comparison of this case to the one recently addressed by public broadcast television in Slovakia.

Be that as it may, Czech Television apologizes for the mistakes made by the moderators and for the dramaturgy of the program. The station is accepting Kamila Zlatušková resignation with respect to this program. 

Jitka Votavová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Tags:  

Česká televize, Hudba, Xenophobia, Guločar



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