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Czech President's staff criticize inclusion of "Freedom and Direct Democracy" party in extremism report

19.6.2018 9:25
Tomio Okamura (left) a Miloš Zeman (right). (2018).
Tomio Okamura (left) a Miloš Zeman (right). (2018).

Czech President Zeman's staff are criticizing the inclusion of the "Freedom and Direct Democracy" (SPD) party of Tomio Okamura among the actors mentioned in the Report on Extremism for 2017 produced by the Department of Crime Prevention and Security Policy at the Czech Interior Ministry. According to the Office of the President, the SPD should not be mentioned by the report.

The annual report on extremism is regularly published during the second half of May for the previous year, but the Czech Interior Ministry has not yet released the report for 2017. News server Aktuálně.cz reports that the Office of the President has commented on the passages about the SPD to the Interior Ministry as follows: "It is unacceptable that the authors are censuring political and other entities just because they do not share their perspective on certain social phenomena."

Jan Novák, director of security at Prague Castle, wrote that "It is absolutely unacceptable to include the parliamentary SPD party in this report, and many allegations by the authors of the report addressing that political entity and its representatives are also unacceptable. At the same time, the authors state that the SPD is not, according to the definition of the Interior Ministry, an extremist subject, as if that gives the ministry an alibi."

The not-yet-approved Report on Extremism for 2017, which has been leaked to the media, states the following:  "The SPD movement, from the perspective of the definition of an extremist entity used by the Interior Ministry, is not extremist. However, it chooses similar subject matter to focus on as the extreme right and not infrequently shares opinions similar to theirs. In some cases the remarks made by SPD representatives are even more radical than the statements by extremist party representatives from the right as traditionally understood. The SPD movement has absolutely upset the position of entities on the extreme right as traditionally understood, it has managed to work far better with subjects that were dominant for those entities before. From the perspective of PR, the SPD movement has appeared before the public in a far more professional way and has had incomparably better financing. It has not been burdened by connections with extremist militants, just as it has not been limited by either continuing or past court proceedings related to its political activity. The SPD movement has officially distanced itself from totalitarian ideologies and does not espouse them even covertly, e.g., not even through symbolism."

The report states that as far as Okamura is concerned, the anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim remarks he made in 2017 were not the first time he has abused xenophobic rhetoric. In the past, when anti-Romani sentiment was dominating the news cycle, Okamura deviated into antigypsyist remarks.

According to the Interior Ministry report, the SPD movement has unequivocally influenced the form that the domestic extremist scene now takes. Each entity has had to distance itself from the SPD somehow.

Extremist entities on the right, as traditionally understood, perceive the SPD to be their competition and have been aware that a different player is now entering their traditional area of action. The first-quarter report on extremism for 2018 also finds the SPD to be a populist party that frequently uses extremist rhetoric together with xenophobic remarks that contribute to an atmosphere of fear and to the polarization of society.

SPD member Jaroslav Staník is said to have declared on the grounds of the lower house that members of various minority groups should be gassed to death. Czech MP Miloslav Rozner (SPD) called the WWII-era concentration camp for Romani people at Lety a "pseudo-concentration camp".

Okamura frequently verbally assails foreign nationals, Muslims, and Romani people. His movement most recently criticized an advertisement featuring a child of dark complexion eating a "traditional Czech" dessert, saying the movement did not believe a dark-skinned little girl was appropriate for promoting the pastry.

"The information collaboration by some media outlets that regularly create scandals about the SPD movement, as well as the collaboration of the Interior Ministry in creating that report, demonstrates the obvious totalitarian tendencies involved. The collaboration of the state bodies and some media outlets in this political combat is a typical method of the work of communist and fascist regimes," the SPD said in a press release responding to the report.

redakce, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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