Czech media regulator says Prima TV incites fear of Roma, station disagrees
News server TÝDEN.cz reports that the Prima television station's recent newscasts in the Czech Republic have confirmed viewers' prejudices against Romani people in at least six cases. The Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (Rada pro rozhlasové a televizní vysílání - RRTV) has warned the station's operators of the incidents.
The criticized reports allegedly have sparked fear of Romani people, portraying them as criminals or as a group that devastates the neighborhood around them. Prima broadcast the reports between 9 April and 31 May this year as part of a show called "Where Others Fear To Go" (Kam se jiní bojí), part of the main evening news reporting on the station.
In the reportage broadcast on 9 April, for example, the RRTV says Romani people were collectively blamed for robbing a member of the TV crew when someone smashed in a window of his parked car and stole it from a troubled locality in Ostrava. The RRTV report cites the journalist as saying "Unfortunately, we might have even been coming here to help them, but this is how they show their gratitude."
From the context of the preceding reportage in the same locality, RRTV says it is obvious that the residents of the locality were being labeled Romani by the television station. Prima has sharply objected to the RRTV warning that the station has allegedly violated the law.
At its most recent session, the RRTV ruled that several of the pieces broadcast by Prima during its evening news segment confirmed stereotypical prejudices against the Romani minority. The station rejects the charges and says its reports are truthful descriptions of actual situations.
"In our view, the program as a whole and the individual pieces the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting has separated out from it and singled out for attack were truthful descriptions of real situations. We have long honored the principle, based on our deep convictions, that the media should behave responsibly toward minorities and support tolerance, and those who actually follow that particular program and know it are aware of that," said Marek Singer, General Director of Prima. "We are also of the opinion that the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting should never have begun these attempts to filter and sterilize the content of independent news reporting by deciding what information is 'supportable' and what is a stereotypical prejudice."
The RRTV decision evaluated Prima's reportage from April and May. It found the law had been violated that tasks broadcasters with "not including programs that can confirm stereotypical prejudices about ethnic, racial or religious minorities...".
In its report issued after this week's session, the RRTV noted that in the broadcast pieces, the inhabitants of socially excluded localities were perceived through their group membership, not as individuals, and that the characteristics attributed to them were unequivocally negative. In one reportage, the RRTV says the notion that Romani people are dangerous to the majority was confirmed, sparking fear of members of their ethnic group.
Some of the depictions of persons of Romani origin, according to the RRTV, could have resulted in strengthening ethnic tensions and xenophobic sentiment in society. In that context, Prima television has pointed out the exceptional nature of the power the law has granted to the Czech regulator.
"We believe it is now being demonstrated that the provisions of section 32 paragraph 1 point i) of the Broadcasting Act, which are completely unique in the European context, are introducing so-called political correctness into the legal order, unequivocally violating the constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech and the public's right to information. As the operator of a media outlet in a democratic society, we are authorized - or rather, obligated - to show the world objectively as it is and not to avoid any topics while doing so," believes Marek Singer, General Director of Prima.
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