Czech media again fail to report the full story of an alleged interethnic conflict
The Czech daily Právo and several online tabloids have been reporting that the 100-plus inhabitants of the village of Strýčkovice (Domažlice district) are currently being terrorized by a Romani clan whose members are assaulting them. Czech MP Tomio Okamura, the chair of the "Dawn of Direct Democracy" (Úsvit) movement, has published a piece about it on his blog called "No to a Czech Romanistan!"
Reporters with news server Romea.cz have traveled to Strýčkovice to look into what lies at the heart of these disputes and to interview the main actors in this scandal, i.e., the Romani locals, in order to either confirm or refute the information that the entire village is being terrorized. No other media outlet has published any statements from the Romani people involved.
Our visit to the family of these alleged aggressors and their open statements in front of our cameras have cast a rather different light on the case. Two of the people who supposedly pose a threat to the entire village are already in custody and had been there for three days before any editor or politician took an interest in them.
The criminal justice authorities have evidently done their job well, as these individuals, who might harm others or pose a threat to them, have been lawfully removed from the scene. In mid-March, two drunken members of a local Romani family threw cobblestones through the window of one of their neighbors.
The police who responded to the scene calmed the men down, but they resumed their attack once the police had driven away. Police then arrested them and the court remanded them into custody.
The men are charged with making criminal threats, rioting, trespassing, and vandalism. However, according to Romani resident Ladislav Matuš, the conflict was the result of long-term poor relations between the neighbors, which have their roots in an incident from last year.
Matuš says the Romani locals were not the first to attack. "In October 2013, Mr Müller's son-in-law threw rocks through our window and made threats. They shouted at us to come out or they would kill us. They had been drinking at the fire station and they were hammered. About four other guys joined them over the next few minutes. We called the police and they came, but they didn't do anything about it," Matuš told news server Romea.cz.
The Romani family says that other conflicts then developed because their neighbor, Josef Müller, allegedly diverted the spring flowing into their well into a new borehole, which left the family without water. Moreover, the neighbors allegedly attacked and beat up a member of their family.
"Mr Sýkora took him out into the meadow and worked him over, then he came here with a gang of about 15 people and attacked us," Matuš told news server Romea.cz. In yet another conflict, it was the Matuš brothers who attacked, knocking Jiří Sýkora off of his motorbike and beating him up.
"They used a wooden joist to knock me off my motorbike and then they kicked me. They were shouting that I was a white dickwad and that they would set my house on fire," Sýkora told news server Novinky.cz.
Sýkora refused to make a statement to news server Romea.cz about that incident, given that the trial in the matter is underway. However, he did discuss conditions in the village in general and said point-blank that there is no need to dramatize the matter or blow it out of proportion.
"None of us have anything against them, I don't care who comes here, black, white or yellow. As long as someone behaves decently, what's the problem? I don't have a problem," Sýkora told news server Romea.cz.
Sýkora then went on to discuss Ladislav Matuš, whom he once employed, in a sentimental tone. He claimed to have helped the Romani boy when he was getting his driver's license and to have given him a vehicle that was as good as new in exchange for work performed on a construction site.
Now, however, the two are not getting along, with Sýkora alleging that Matuš stole something at work. Matuš insists that he was never properly paid for the work he performed.
Sýkora considers the whole scandal to have been exaggerated by the press to a certain extent, but also says that he believes the Romani family does pose a potential threat to the village. In his view the problem is mainly to do with a particular family member whom he described as schizophrenic.
"One of them runs around here cursing people and telling them they need to clean up, but he's not in his right mind, so the person into whose care he has been entrusted should take responsibility for him. These matters must be addressed by the relevant bureaucrats, that's their job," Sýkora told news server Romea.cz.
Other locals didn't much want to speak on the record about the situation. One postal worker did reveal that she does not feel at risk in the village and has no problem with the Romani family.
Police in Strýčkovice have no records of any particularly serious criminal activity there. They also have not received any reports from any other residents about illegal behavior by the Romani family.
A criminal proceedings is now underway in which the injured parties are the Müllers and Sýkora. Markéta Kastnerová, the mayor of the municipality of Srbice, which has jurisdiction over Strýčkovice, refused to be interviewed about the situation on the record.
Allegedly the mayor is afraid of right-wing extremists, who reportedly bothered her this past weekend. She did tell our reporters that the scandal sparked by the daily Právo and its online news server Novinky.cz is blown out of proportion, and said that she felt it was a dirty trick by their editors to launch the whole media bubble.
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