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August 19, 2022



Czech ombudsman attacks ROMEA organization for criticizing racist joke by incoming Chief Public Health Officer

6.3.2021 7:02
Czech Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček (PHOTO: David Sedlecký. Wikimedia Commons)
Czech Public Defender of Rights Stanislav Křeček (PHOTO: David Sedlecký. Wikimedia Commons)

Czech Public Defender of Rights (ombudsman) Stanislav Křeček attacked the ROMEA organization yesterday for having criticized incoming Chief Public Health Officer Pavla Svrčinová for sharing a racist joke on her Facebook profile in October 2020; yesterday afternoon she apologized for having done so.  Křeček called the protests against the joke "hectoring" and said he saw nothing racist about it.

After Facebook user Lukáš Belička called news server "racist" for objecting to the joke, the ombudsman responded at 19:30 yesterday with the following message: "Let's not allow ourselves to be 'hectored' by a group of activists who make a living by dividing society. There is no racism in this joke (in the sense of the definition of racism, which is being forgotten)."

"If the person in the joke working from home had been named Josef Novák, would a nonprofit have protested against discrimination against Czechs?" the ombudsman asked rhetorically. Svrčinová shared the joke to her Facebook page in October 2020 and the ROMEA organization tweeted about it as being racist on 4 March 2021 in response to the news that she had been tapped for the post of Chief Public Health Officer.

"Fero Lakatoš robbed his own apartment today. Fero is following quarantine rules and working from home. Be like Fero," read the meme in question, which uses a stereotypically Romani name.

Křeček has long denied the existence of discrimination against Romani people in the Czech Republic - for example, in January he posted to the website of the Public Defender of Rights in response to the Government's draft Roma Strategy for the next 10 years that some Romani people have problems renting housing in the Czech Republic not because of discrimination, but because "a significant proportion of them devastate the housing stock and thereby transform parts of towns into excluded localities." Last month nonprofit organizations warned in an open letter that other remarks made by the ombudsman about Romani people have been unacceptable as well.

ryz, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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