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Czech Interior Ministry report finds far-right party was the "super spreader" of hate last year

13.7.2020 7:19
French nationalist right-wing politician Marine Le Pen (left), chair of the Czech Republic's
French nationalist right-wing politician Marine Le Pen (left), chair of the Czech Republic's "Freedom and Direct Democracy" movement, Tomio Okamura (center), and the chair of the Dutch Freedom Party, Geert Wilders (right) at the "Europe of Nations and Freedom" conference in Prague, Czech Republic, 16 December 2017.

Last year the trend continued in the Czech Republic of the dissemination of hatred no longer being the domain of "extremists" as they have traditionally been defined, but rather the domain of disinformation media outlets and populist, xenophobic groups, according to the Czech Interior Ministry, which released those findings in its report on displays of extremism in 2019. According to the document made available to the Czech News Agency (ČTK) the far-right scene in the "traditional" sense has been absolutely overshadowed by xenophobic groups.

The dominant force among those groups is unequivocally the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (Svoboda a přímá demokracie - SPD) movement of Tomio Okamura, who is currently a vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies in the Parliament of the Czech Republic. Okamura alleges the findings of the report represent an ongoing abuse of power by Czech Interior Minister Jan Hamáček (Czech Social Democratic Party - ČSSD) to use the Interior Ministry to conduct political combat.

Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies Tomio Okamura disseminates hate

The official annual report has previously mentioned the SPD movement and Okamura has always objected to being included in it, as in his view the references are motivated politically. While last year, according to the report, the movement faced internal disagreements and a rupture in its relationship with Aeronet, a conspiracy theory website that began publishing articles targeting SPD representatives, despite that it remained the most influential subject inciting xenophobic sentiment in society.

The situation is all the more paradoxical because Okamura in particular was elected as a vice-president of the Chamber of Deputies of the Parliament of the Czech Republic after the 2017 elections. He was voted for by 102 deputies.

"These absurdities are just the continuation of the abuse of the Interior Ministry by Minister Jan Hamáček of the ČSSD to wage political combat against his political opponents because voter preferences for the ČSSD are desperately declining. After the spring attempt to prosecute an SPD deputy, Karla Maříková, for her true attitude condemning illegal migration and Islamization, the Interior Ministry is continuing its experiments under ČSSD leadership to criminalize patriots and people who disagree with European Union policy," Okamura reiterated his own "traditional" rhetoric when asked by ČTK to respond to the report's findings.

Okamura has been continuing to disseminate hatred with the age of fake news reports this year as well. For example, on Friday, 3 July, he shared a brief video to his profile on social media platforms that purports to document an alleged assault on a young woman by "immigrants" at a train station in Lisbon, Portugal at the beginning of May.

According to the Portuguese fact-checking website Polígrafo, however, the footage, which is from April of this year, does not show the behavior of anybody who is an immigrant. The woman had reportedly behaved aggressively and was being removed from a train by a conductor while others present did their best to "pacify" her until police could arrive.

The Association of Most Residents for Most and the "National and Social Front" also disseminated hate

Scoring points with the aid of "sowing hatred and heightened nationalism", however, was also attempted by other political groups in the Czech Republic, and the report mentions the campaign by the Association of Most Residents for Most (Sdružení Mostečané Mostu) ahead of local elections last year. The association made use of slogans such as "The problem of inadaptables doesn't just need to be solved, it needs a final solution", or "If you don't know how to behave, you can't live with us" in advertising spaces.

Police officers also recorded a revival of the far-right scene as "traditionally" defined, compared to the previous year, and the "National and Social Front" organization made a significant contribution there. In addition, some other groups of neo-Nazis were also active on the Czech scene, characterized by the report as having "an absence of broader awareness about Nazi ideology".

Aggressivity in the virtual environment can grow into physical violence

According to the report, aggressivity especially grew in the virtual environment last year, and according to Interior Ministry experts, concerns exist that animosity on the Internet can metastasize into physical violence. Combating hatred online is, therefore, one of the priorities of the police and prosecutors.

"It is necessary to continue to emphasize that it is not just the members or sympathizers of extremist movements who are criminally liable for hatefully motivated criminal activity committed through the Internet," the report states. Dissemination of hatred toward different groups in society, according to experts, also exactly fits the scenarios of the influence operations being run by different countries against the Czech Republic.

According to the Interior Ministry, other important instruments for spreading hate are also the disinformation media outlets that intentionally generate their own controversial subject matter and serve it up to xenophobic actors. The case of the SPD supporter Jaromír Balda has demonstrated the danger of such media outlets after his conviction for committing a terrorist attack on the railways and for threatening to commit a terrorist act.

During the process of Balda's radicalization, according to the Interior Ministry, a significant role was played exactly by the manipulation of his world view by such media outlets. According to the report, experience from both the Czech Republic and Europe broadly shows that by consuming such media, people who have no relationship with any extremist groups can become radicalized.

Interior Ministry includes anarchists supporting the Klinika Autonomous Social Center or the Kurds in its report

According to the report, anarchist groups in the Czech Republic rather stagnated last year and attempted to mainly contribute to environmental initiatives; a significant event on the scene was the eviction of the Klinika Autonomous Social Center in Prague 3. The activists involved with Klinika were subjected to a significant financial intervention when a collections procedure began against them after their eviction from the property, demanding that they also cover the costs of the collection procedure.

Such activists have not squatted any bigger buildings in Prague since Klinika. The anarchists also expressed views on foreign affairs, for example, by supporting the Kurds in the de facto autonomous Rojava region of Syria.

As for dogmatic Communists, they just commented on foreign affairs and did not manage to raise any relevant current subjects, according to the report. In the chapter about religiously-motivated extremism, the report mentions the fact that the Czech Republic has not avoided the process of its diverse Muslim communities becoming isolated from the rest of society.

"The actions of different Islamophobic groups are also contributing to [such isolation], as some Muslims feel concerned about their existence. The adherents of extremist interpretations of Islam, on the other hand, work to distance Muslims from majority society," the report explains.

"Extremists from the majority society and from the Muslim minority are both contributing to entire groups of Muslims being a priori perceived as dangerous, extremist and high-risk," the report found. Such an environment of distrust, according to the report, is what spawns radicalization.

Last year persons in the Czech Republic accused of joining the conflict in eastern Ukraine faced criminal prosecution for the first time. Czech criminal justice authorities also addressed several cases of support for terrorism, such as expressing approval for the terrorist attack committed in Christchurch, New Zealand.

ČTK, ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Hate, Interior Ministry, Neo-Nazism, Racism



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