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Czech NGO ROMEA and vice-chair of Pirates file criminal report over online racist commentaries about arson in Bohumín

14.8.2020 11:12
Olga Richterová and Zdeněk Ryšavý (Collage: Romea.cz)
Olga Richterová and Zdeněk Ryšavý (Collage: Romea.cz)

The arson attack in Bohumín in which 11 persons, three of them children, died on 8 August, has become a pretext for inciting hatred against the Romani community even though the alleged perpetrator is not of Romani origin. Several dangerous articles and commentaries have been published attributing responsibility for these deaths to a member of the Romani minority, while others have celebrated the deaths in the belief that all those who died were from the Romani community.

An analytical team of the Pirate Party, in collaboration with the ROMEA organization, has now mapped the most brutal, insidious online commentaries, and today the first vice-chair of the Pirates, Czech MP Olga Richterová, and representatives of the ROMEA association filed crime reports against the unidentified perpetrators who authored them. The Pirates are also communicating with the relatives of some of the victims, who have made no secret of their outrage with respect to this behavior.

"For me, the idea that anybody is celebrating an arson attack just because Romani people could have been among its victims is absolutely crazy. First and foremost, we are all human beings," said MP Richterová.

"Attempts to create intolerance of any minority corrode the functioning of our society. If we must judge people, it should not be on the basis of their nationality, but on the basis of their actions," the MP said.

"Something analogous happened last year, in response to the shooting at the hospital in Ostrava, when a disinformation website published an article alleging that tragedy was the consequence of a war being waged by Jewish people. The Pirates also filed a crime report in that case, and we will proceed in an uncompromising way in all other such cases," Richterová said.

"Posting racist commentaries to online discussions where speculations are circulating that the perpetrator of a crime could have been Romani, or that the victims of such a crime could have been Romani, is absolutely unacceptable. To celebrate the fact that young children have been burned to death is absolutely monstrous and the relevant authorites must begin taking action," said the director of the ROMEA organization, Zdeněk Ryšavý.

"It is also necessary to recall the role played in this case by some media outlets. The publication of untruths, such as identifying the arsonist as a Romani man without fact-checking that claim at all, is an enormous professional error and failure," Ryšavý said.

"It is even more of a mistake when the ethnicity of the perpetrator and the victims, as in the case of the mass murder in Bohumín, was not at all important because it had nothing to do with the motivation for the crime," the ROMEA director said. The crime reports have been addressed to the Department of Extremism and Terrorism at the Regional Directorate of the Prague City Police, which specializes in investigating this kind of criminal activity.

There are grounds to suspect that felony incitement to hatred, approval of a criminal act, defamation of a nation and other offenses have been committed. The analysts from the Pirates, in collaboration with ROMEA, chose texts from the Internet, including social media accounts, that were the most insidious and that even celebrated the tragedy.

Two articles from disinformation websites and one online commentary were chosen as examples to report. An article on the extremist Vlastenecké noviny ("Patriotic News") portal entitled "Eleven fewer cikáni. Some of it burned up, some of it jumped from the window" describes the children who fell victim to this tragedy as a "cikánská brood" and citizens of Romani origin as "overpopulated parasites".

That article also uses the term "barbecue of cikáni" to refer to the tragedy. The operator of that portal is a company headed by Radek Velička.

Another insidious article referenced in the crime report was entitled "Blaze in Bohumín was set by cikáni - the media are chastely silent" and was published on the zvedavec.org portal. The owner of that domain, unfortunately, is anonymous and their identity is being concealed thanks to a service called WhoisGuard.

The provider of that service, WhoisGuard, Inc., is headquartered in Panama. A crime report was also filed against the author of this commentary: "11 people in one apartment? If that was a herd of cikáni, then their death is our good luck."

"I hope the gentleman who set it on fire keeps his nerve," that Internet user posted. The person whose name is associated with that commentary online has communicated to the analysts from the Pirate Party that it was authored by his minor son, who allegedly accidentally used his father's computer and profile.

redakce, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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antigypsyism, Extremism, Internet, Police



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