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Czech online environment cultivating hatred of Roma

16.3.2015 23:08, (ROMEA)
Some of the Czech online blogs that allow antigypsyist content on a regular basis.
Some of the Czech online blogs that allow antigypsyist content on a regular basis.

"So the gypsies are going to get preferential treatment at the Labor Office. They will also be giving them all CZK 60 000 for enrolling their children into school, where they will get free food."

"That's not possible, you're bullshitting."

"It's true! I read it on Facebook and they wrote it on iDNES."

Such exchanges are exactly how half-truths and lies are spread in the Czech online environment - first they turn up on an iDNES.cz blog, and then they are re-posted by obscure servers such as EUportál, bezpolitickékorektnosti.cz ("no-political-correctness".cz) or Krajské listy ("Regional News"). Let's look in more detail at some of the lies and manipulations being published, for example, by Michal Malý on his blog in a recent piece entitled "Gadjo, go to the back of the line, Roma come first!" (Gadžo padej dozadu do fronty, Romové mají přednost!).

The article was published on Malý's blog at iDNES.cz and has been accessed more than 80 000 times. It is about the Romani Integration Strategy to 2020 recently approved by the Czech Government.  

CZK 60 000 a year for Romani college students? IT'S A LIE!

At several places in his article, Malý claims the Government has considered (or is considering) paying CZK 60 000 to Romani people in high school (or actually any kind of secondary school). Specifically, he writes:  "The Government even proposed last year that every Romani high school students would receive a subsidy of CZK 60 000 annually. ... When working parents want their child to study, they will have to take a 'second' job to afford their studies, their textbooks and tuition. Romani parents will not have to, as long as the Government is considering giving them CZK 60 000 a year."  

The first sentence cited above is a manipulation of the facts, and the second is an outright lie. Where did this information come from, and what is the real story?

In May 2014 the Office of the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs published a working version of the Romani Integration Strategy on the Government's website (vlada.cz) so the public at large could comment on it. Such a thing had never been done before here.  

The public had never before had the opportunity to comment on a Government strategy in this way. In that version of the Strategy, a proposal for CZK 60 000 in aid to "Support gifted Romani college students" was included.

The working version of the Strategy reads:  "Aligning the educational gap between the non-Romani and Romani populations in relation to college and university education is, therefore, a prerequisite for the emancipation of Roma and can help to improve the relationship between the majority and the minority. ... It is therefore proposed that the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport introduce in 2016 a system of support for Romani university students involve special positive measures. ... The financial cost of this action will be CZK 3 000 000 per year (50 Romani students per year supported with CZK 60 000 per student)."

So:  No support was being proposed for Romani high school students, as Malý has written, just support for Romani college students. At this point a more important fact comes into play that Malý does not reveal in his blog, and his failure to include it means he is manipulating his readers and openly lying, with the tacit consent of the administrators of the iDNES.cz blogs.  

That fact is that the proposal for this support was then withdrawn during the commenting process. The text approved by the Government does not mention anything about providing a CZK 60 000 contribution to Romani college students.

Romani people will take precedence at the Labor Office? IT'S A LIE!

Malý's claim that Romani people will be given preference at the Labor Office is in the headline of his piece, and in the body of the article he writes the following:  "Among other things, therefore, Roma are to take precedence at Labor Offices. ... Someone who works honestly his entire life and pays taxes to the state, if he loses his job, he will have to let a Rom who has never worked cut ahead of him in line?"

Malý is referring to a measure in the Strategy on pages 54 and 55 of the chapter entitled "Increased Romani employment and economic activity". Concretely, this is a measure to specify that persons at risk of racial discrimination and members of ethnic minorities will be included among the target groups of the country's active employment policy to support job-seekers.

Notice that this measure does not just concern the Roma only, as Malý claims. Moreover, from the text of the measure, it is clear that right now there already exist groups who are receiving this "positive discrimination", as he would see it.

Of course, Malý once again is keeping that fact from those of us reading his blog. According to the Czech Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, these "positively discriminated" groups are:

  • Persons seeking employment for longer than five months
  • Persons up to age 30, including graduates without practical experience
  • Adults caring for children up to age 15
  • Persons older than 50
  • Persons living with disabilities
  • Women returning to work after maternity or parental leave
  • Persons for whom it is reasonable to assume they have long been seeking employment, absent a record 
  • Persons who require increased care because their access to the open labor market is inhibited for some reason, such as their being at risk of social exclusion because of their long-term unemployment

Simply put, if the clear, verifiable fact exists that Romani people are discriminated against on the labor market on the basis of of their nationality (ethnicity) - just as there exists clear evidence that job-seekers over 50 are discriminated against on the labor market because of their age - then it is completely logical that the state will in fact devote greater attention to those at risk of discrimination when they look for work. The claim that Romani people will be preferred by Labor Offices, however, is a lie and a manipulation of the facts; this is about nothing less than making sure that all job-seekers threatened by racial discrimination (not just Romani people) are treated the same as those who are at risk of other types of discrimination.

Marie Škardová has focused on these lies in detail at Hatefree.cz, where she has posted the following:  "Many people say they would never employ a Romani person, and then they get very upset that Romani people are unemployed. Romani people can only work when someone employs them. Naturally, there are people who don't want to work. The Strategy, however, in its point on 'increasing employment', primarily covers those who are doing their best to find work and addresses how to aid them. Those who regret their tax money being used to assist others in finding work should try thinking about how easily they themselves might fall into one of these groups eligible for positive discrimination themselves someday (if they are left alone to care for their children, once they age, should they fall ill, ...). Experiencing the conditions that make one eligible for positive discrimination is something I would not wish on anyone."

Malý has also written the following in the context of employing Romani people:  "If job candidates from the majority society and Romani candidates compete at the same firm, the Roma will evidently have to be given priority instead of a fair selection procedure being conducted." Nothing of the sort is mentioned in the Strategy - he is lying once again.

Will Romani children be given preference in nursery schools and free food? IT'S A LIE!

In his blog, Malý goes on to claim that Romani children will be given preference over majority-society children during enrollment into nursery schools. He writes:  "When majority-society parents work to feed their families, they need to put their children into nursery school during the day. Evidently, however, they will be out of luck, because a Romani child whose parents have never worked, are not working and will never work will get priority."

This statement, too, is a lie. The Strategy counts on no such plan:  No preference for Romani children in nursery schools is written about there.

What is proposed in the Strategy is just a measure to ensure that the available infrastructure exists to provide pre-school education to children in nursery schools so that the segregation of Romani children in the school system will not occur, and so that municipalities and Regional Authorities will be better informed about their options for supporting the increased capacity of preschool facilities.

What audacity! The Government is endeavoring to make sure everyone has equal opportunities and endeavoring to increase the capacity of nursery schools - how dare they?

Moreover, the Strategy explicitly states:  "State and European programs of support for increasing nursery school capacity should respond to the new (currently under discussion) requirement of ensuring the provision of compulsory pre-school education from the age of five for every child. This requriement should not threaten the current availability of nursery schools to children aged three and four, nor should it exclude the possibility that children younger than three could be accepted into nursery school in individual cases."

Malý goes on to claim that Romani children will eat for free at school. This is, once again, a lie and a manipulation of the facts.  

One measure in the Strategy says:  "To propose a system of efficient support for children/schools to ensure school catering for children who are unable to afford to buy meals at school because of their family's financial situations." This is not just about Romani children, but about all children from impoverished families.  

Moreover, it is clearly written in the Strategy that this contribution will not be based on the principle of nationality (ethnicity), but on a social principle:  "Many pupils also might grapple with existential problems that influence their study results and success. The catering contribution should ensure that pupils whose family backgrounds mean they cannot afford to purchase meals have the option of coming to school prior to instruction in order to eat breakfast and to eat lunch at school as well. The contribution will be sent directly to the schools and should be based on the social needs of their pupils so that pupils are not stigmatized by such meal provision."

Malý keeps this fact from his readers. Once again, his piece contains a lie.

Are racist generalizations the standard for blogs on iDNES.cz?

I could continue to refute the various bits of nonsense that Malý has published, but I would like to point out one more thing about his article. In is rife with racist generalizations that the blog administrators have ignored.

Some of those generalizations have already been cited, such as the claim that majority-society parents naturally all work, unlike Romani parents, who of course have never worked and never will (see the claims about Romani children getting preferential treatment in nursery schools above), or about the allegedly working majority and allegedly non-working Romani people in a hypothetical Labor Office employment line. However, Malý goes even further with his racist distinctions and generalizing, calling Romani people "lifelong slackers who reproduce generations of more slackers."

When he writes about the enrollment of Romani children into the so-called "special schools", he touches on their "nature":  "Romani children have sometimes ended up (not all of them) in 'special classes' thanks to their ill-breeding, which borders on aggression, and to their low intellects or reduced capacity for understanding the material, for learning. However, this is not the fault of the majority society, but of the historical 'nature' of Romani children and in particular, the completely insufficient care and rearing of them by Romani parents during preschool age," he writes.  

Here Malý masterfully mixes demonstrably false statements with half-truths. He basically contradicts himself from one part of his article to the next when he criticizes the efforts of the Strategy to involve Romani parents in the education of their children, before admitting that insufficient care and rearing by Romani parents is one of the causes of Romani children's failure in education.  

News server iDNES.cz is privately held - someone owns it. It is therefore clear that the owner, the Editor-in-Chief, and the other staffers there are responsible for determining the rules of its publication.

Those rules are contained, for example, in the so-called Bloggers' Code of Ethics, which reads:  "A blogger is not permitted to publish information that is half-true, incomplete, untrue, or such that its veracity cannot be sufficiently verified, especially if such information might harm a group or an individual." Malý has unequivocally violated this point of the Bloggers' Code, but his blog remains online.

Whether news server iDNES.cz has resigned itself to ignoring whether its own code is upheld or not is purely its own business - but if the code just exists to be ignored, t would be a good idea to remove it from the server so readers won't be confused. The code is evidently not being followed.

A final note:  I am not enthusiastic about censorship. Malý can set up his own blog, or his own whole server, and he can set the rules for either of those however he likes.

The Internet facilitates this, which is why it is such a wonderful tool. Naturally, he will have to count on the fact that if he writes lies, then others will criticize him for it - and if his lies harm someone, they might just take him to court.

That's how democracy and the rule of law work. Freedom of speech does not just apply to some, it applies to all - it even applies to those of us who don't paint all Roma with the same brush or insult them. 

Zdeněk Ryšavý, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
Views: 548x

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Hoax, Média, Nenávist, Racism



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