Czech Govt Agency for Social Inclusion and ROMEA offer to work with media for more objective reporting about Romani people
On the occasion of International Romani Day this Monday 8 April, the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion and the ROMEA civic association held a round table on the topic of Portraying Romani People in the Media at the Journalists’ Syndicate under the auspices of Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner Monika Šimůnková. The Agency presented the results of its extensive analysis of the Czech media there.
Czech media contribute to worsening the public’s view of Romani people
The results of that research show that the Czech media portrays Romani people through stereotypes, contributing to the deterioration of their image. Three-fifths of the 6 300 news reports produced about this minority between the fall of 2011 and the end of May 2012 concerned crime.
The analysis mapped contributions to 19 dailies, online news servers, radio stations and television channels after the events in the Šluknov district in 2011, the New Year’s Day shooting in 2012 in Tanvald, and the fabricated report of assault by a boy in Břeclav in mid-2012. "This repeated linkage of Romani people with crime is leading to the fact that today, the very concept of a Romani man is directly used to imply the perpetration of crime in many media pieces,” the authors of the analysis state.
The tabloid Blesk devotes the most space to crime news. Nine of the 10 pieces about crime published by the tabloid concerned Romani people. The next most frequent linkage was found on the tabloid’s online news server blesk.cz and the Nova and Prima television channels, with more than four-fifths of that reporting including such linkages. The online news server Novinky.cz made such linkages in three-fourths of its crime reporting, while the online news server Lidovky.cz made them in 71 % of its crime reporting. According to the authors of the analysis, four-fifths of all the reporting about Romani people mentioned them as perpetrators of crime, while only one-fifth mentioned them as victims.
According to the analysis, Czech media reporting about the Romani minority is not diversified enough. After crime reporting, the media focus on Romani people mainly in the context of reporting on housing issues or right-wing extremism. There was much less reporting about Romani people in the context of culture, education, employment, history, nonprofit activity, or the work of the Czech Government Agency for Social Inclusion.
The Agency’s management has stated that ethnicity is usually mentioned in news reports even when it is irrelevant to the incident being reported, especially when the piece is about crime. The “notion of the decent Romani man” is also being emphasized as exceptional or newsworthy when reporting unnecessarily highlights Romani families as trouble-free.
Politicians and others also are given room in the media to make statements that may seem correct but are actually racist. According to the authors of the analysis, pieces from the Czech Press Agency’s (ČTK) wire service also support one-sided reporting and stereotypes.
Roughly 45 % of the reporting studied had been published by the end of October 2011, i.e., immediately after the Šluknov riots. The situation in the Šluknov district came to a head at the start of summer 2011. Several incidents between non-Romani and Romani residents contributed to the unrest. Anti-Romani demonstrations and marches took place in North Bohemian towns and police reinforcements were sent to the region.
On New Year’s Day 2012, a non-Romani man shot dead one Romani youth and injured another in the town of Tanvald. The state prosecutor assessed the incident as one of necessary self-defense. Last year there was also unrest in the town of Břeclav after a non-Romani boy claimed to have been injured by Romani assailants. It then turned out he had accidentally caused his own injuries.
Journalists have a professional media service on Romani issues available
During the second part of the round table, entitled “How the media report on Romani people”, ROMEA presented several specific examples and offered its professional media service to the journalists. “The Agency’s analysis and our own findings are a first step toward collaborating with the media. We don’t just want to criticize the media – on the contrary, we want to offer to work with them so that news reporting about Romani people can finally become objective and better reflect the reality of the situation,” said Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of ROMEA.
The Editor-in-Chief of the news desk of public broadcaster Czech Television, Petr Mrzena, welcomed this initiative and promised further collaboration.
This round table was the first in a series of three supported as part of the project “Improving reporting about Romani people in the media” supported by the Open Society Fund Prague as part of its Human Rights program.
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