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Czech Journalists' Syndicate says news outlet broke the law on spreading racial hatred

Prague/Prostějov, 12.9.2013 18:36, (ROMEA)
The Prostějov edition of the Evening News (Prostějovský večerník) downloaded photographs of Chinese sports fans committing violence from an Asian news server and used a digital photo editing program to superimpose a
The Prostějov edition of the Evening News (Prostějovský večerník) downloaded photographs of Chinese sports fans committing violence from an Asian news server and used a digital photo editing program to superimpose a "Romani" face onto one of the figures in order to illustrate the alleged "rising Roma aggression" in Prostějov.

The governing body of the Journalists' Syndicate in the Czech Republic (Syndikát novinářů ČR) has passed a resolution declaring that an article recently published in the Prostějovský Večerník (Prostějov Evening News) entitled "Gypsy attacks are multiplying!" ("Cikánské útoky se množí!") not only contravenes the Syndicate's code of ethics but violates the law. News server Romea.cz was the first to report on the article and the overall behavior of the Prostějovský Večerník editors (see http://www.romea.cz/en/news/czech/analysis-czech-news-outlet-misleads-readers-by-mastering-photoshop).

Conscious, intentional manipulation

"The proof is that the article uses phrases such as 'the inborn violence of our Romani fellow-citizens', as well as the accompanying photograph, where the head of a Chinese football fan has been replaced with a Romani face. Such a procedure must be labeled conscious, intentional manipulation, and the impact of it is even more serious because the image accompanying the article is not based on fact and incites negative emotions," Adam Černý, chair of the Journalists' Syndicate, and Barbora Osvaldová, chair of its Ethics Commission, write in their declaration.    

The Syndicate's declaration concludes with the warning that "this article in the Prostějovský Večerník contravenes the regulations of the Penal Code (specifically, paragraphs 355 and 356), which define criminal liability for defamation of a nation and race and for inciting hatred against a group of people." Monika Šimůnková, the Czech Government Human Rights Commissioner, also intends to deal with the article.

"We will be looking into this thoroughly, and if my colleagues and I determine there is a possibility to do something about it - including criminal prosecution - we will do our best to do everything in our power. We must fight this," Šimůnková told news server Lidovky.cz.

Editors:  We will not retract the article

The problematic piece was noticed online by several members of the Living in Brno (Žít Brno) initiative, who contacted the editors and demanded it be removed. The editors refused to do so, saying they had done nothing wrong and that the piece would be updated by the end of the week with additional information. 

News server Lidovky.cz reports that the authors of the article, Martin Zaoral and Michal Kadlec, stand by the wording of the piece and are refusing to retract it. The publisher of the print edition is the Haná Press company, whose CEO is Jiří Pospíšil. Mr Pospíšil is also the manager of the Pozemstav Prostějov construction firm.

The article is dominated by the photograph in which a group of men are angrily kicking a dark blue car. In and of itself that is not a surprising image, but what is remarkable is that this photograph was downloaded from an Asian news server and depicts Chinese sports fans on a spree of violence. Prostějovský Večerník, with the aid of a photo editor, substituted the face of a Romani man onto one of the figures.

"We didn't have a photo of the events described in the article, so we converted the other image. That's what the media usually do with illustrative photos," Zaoral explained.

Below is the full translation of the declaration published by the governing body of the Journalists' Syndicate in the Czech Republic: 

The Board of Directors of the Journalists' Syndicate in the Czech Republic (Grémium Syndikátu novinářů ČR) has familiarized itself with the complaints against an article published on 25 August 2013 in the Prostějovský Večerník entitled "Gypsy attacks are multiplying!" ("Cikánské útoky se množí"). In the opinion of the board, this article fundamentally contravenes the Syndicate's code of ethics in more than one place.

The article primarily violates the section of the code on ethics establishing that a journalist "is not permitted to create or reproduce copy that incites discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or skin color". The proof is that the article uses phrases such as "the inborn violence of our Romani fellow-citizens", as well as the accompanying photograph, where the head of a Chinese football fan has been replaced with a Romani face. Such a procedure must be labeled conscious, intentional manipulation, and the impact of it is even more serious because the image accompanying the article is not based on fact and incites negative emotions.

In the opinion of the Board of Directors of the Journalists' Syndicate in the Czech Republic, this article is an example of a phenomenon that is spreading through certain Czech media outlets and that must be condemned and rejected. In that context, we underscore that this article in the Prostějovský Večerník contravenes the regulations of the Penal Code (specifically, paragraphs 355 and 356), which define criminal liability for defamation of a nation and race and for inciting hatred against a group of people.

Adam Černý, chair of the Journalists' Syndicate in the Czech Republic
Barbora Osvaldová, chair of the Ethics Commission of the Journalists' Syndicate in the Czech Republic

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Média, Racism, Czech republic, Internet, news, Roma, Xenophobia



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