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Czech media misreport that victim of crossbow shooting was allegedly a thief

Prague, 6.6.2013 19:17, (ROMEA)
On 20 May 2013,  Jaromír Šebesta (on the left) stood trial at the Regional Court in Ostrava. He has been convicted of shooting dead a scrap metal collector in Chotěbuz (Karviná district) and said he would appeal.  Šebesta's attorney is on the right. (PHOTO:  ČTK)
On 20 May 2013, Jaromír Šebesta (on the left) stood trial at the Regional Court in Ostrava. He has been convicted of shooting dead a scrap metal collector in Chotěbuz (Karviná district) and said he would appeal. Šebesta's attorney is on the right. (PHOTO: ČTK)

The incident in Chotěbuz that was recently ruled on by the court was not one in which a thief (or even an alleged thief) was shot with a crossbow. The person who was shot was with a small group of scrap metal collectors who claimed to always perform their activities with the permission of the owners of the buildings or the land from which they did the collecting. 

The victim was leaving the scene when he was slain. We know this both from the trial and from the statements made by the Romani eyewitnesses who were present when the attacker killed their relative. Nevertheless, after the perpetrator was convicted, several Czech media outlets called the man who was killed a "thief" in their headlines.  

Only the shooter called it theft

The only person to ever claim that the four Romani men were at the scene in order to steal is the shooter himself. According to him, they wanted to break into his home:  "They were in the cellar. They weren't interested in scrap metal. They were looking for a way to get inside the house."

There is literally no evidence to back up his assertion. Police did not find a single piece of evidence to prove an attempted theft and not a single trace of any of the four Romani men having ever been in the cellar. 

Police never charged any of the Romani people involved in this incident with trespassing, attempted theft, or any other crime. Even according to the shooter himself they did not take anything.  

According to Judge Miroslav Mucha, the shooter fired his weapon when the men were fleeing the scene and doing their best to get into their car to drive away. This was not, therefore, an incident of theft.

The Romani men who were assaulted by the shooter say that they usually drove around Karvina district to make extra money by collecting scrap metal. They say that they always first politely asked people whether they didn't have something they wanted to get rid of or sell for a symbolic price.

The men claim no one has ever filed a complaint against them - on the contrary, they say people were often glad to have help with getting rid of things they didn't need anymore. Neither the court, nor the police, nor the witnesses called to testify ever demonstrated that those claims were untrue.

Romani eyewitness Mr Gujda submitted a clean criminal record to the court. The only offense on his record was a misdemeanor committed in 1989 when he was 22 years old - more than 20 years ago. 

The incident in Chotěbuz was not, therefore, one of theft. It was not even one of "alleged theft". The only person to ever claim the Romani men had come there to steal is the man now convicted of killing one of them.

When someone says or writes that an "alleged" or "apparent" thief was slain during this incident, it means that person believes the claims of only one side of this dispute, those of the shooter. His claims, however, did not hold up in court.  

The "adaptable" media

Where did the media get this notion of a "thief shot dead" (or "alleged thief" shot dead)? There is more than one reason for it.

The Czech media are too "adaptable" - they do too much to accommodate the views of the pathological dregs of society who hate Romani people here. The fanaticism of this layer of society prevents them from thinking things through and in-depth. 

These people expect the media to confirm their racism and are not interested in anything else. Media publishers want to make money, which is why they accommodate such sentiments.

Some of the authors or editors who arrange or invent these headlines have a lot of work to do and don't have time for a deeper analysis. Publishers are pressuring editors-in-chief to save as much money as possible, and this is reflected in the very low quality of the media in this country.

Articles are often prepared for publication or written by inexperienced beginners who are also overworked. There are fewer and fewer specialists on particular topics working for newsrooms.

Some of the authors or editors are racists and xenophobes. Some are just clueless, which is why they behave as they do.  

Willing editors

When an avalanche of headlines was released in the media to the effect that Mr Šebesta had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the manslaughter of a thief, news server Romea.cz turned to several editors with the request that they remove the term "thief" from their headlines. All of them were willing to make the change, although some outlets simply changed it to "alleged thief". 

It is very sad that the term "thief" was used in the initial headlines of all of the public news outlets - the Czech News Agency, Czech Radio and Czech Television. These media should lead by example and should find enough time to think everything through. We did not have to contact either iDNES.cz or Novinky.cz, as those outlets did not mention the term "thief" in their headlines at all.

The editors contacted were at the Czech News Agency, Czech Radio, Czech Television, and Týden.cz. To see the screenshots of the headlines prior to the request for a change and the corrected versions, please scroll to the bottom of the Czech-language original of this article at http://www.romea.cz/cz/zpravodajstvi/v-chotebuzi-nebyl-zastrelen-sipem-zlodej-ani-udajny-zlodej-jak-tvrdi-prilis-prizpusobiva-media

František Kostlán, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Média, Násilí, Soud, Soužití, Stereotypy, Svědectví, Vražda, Xenofobie, zprávy, Aktivismus, Anticiganismus, Nacionalismus, Občanská společnost, oběť, Romové, Romská hrdost, rozsudek, střelba, Czech republic, Monitoring, news, Racism, Roma, úmrtí



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