Czech regulator finds TV NOVA broadcast false report about murdered Romani man
At the start of April, the In IUSTITIA and ROMEA organizations filed a complaint with the Czech Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting (Rada pro rozhlasové a televizní vysílání - RRTV) over a reportage broadcast by TV NOVA, the country's most-watched commerical television station. The piece, called "He killed over a sausage and got five years" was filmed by reporter Martin Kočárek.
The reportage covered the verdict in the case of a Romani man who was killed in the town of Teplice. In IUSTITIA and ROMEA informed RRTV that it featured untrue claims and that TV NOVA had tarnished the reputation of the victim of the deadly attack.
RRTV has now let both organizations know it agrees with their assessment. The regulator has warned the operator of TV NOVA that the reportage violated the law.
Victim was not a sausage thief
The piece was aired during TV NOVA's main evening news program on 25 March 2014. It included a reportage about an attack that took place in May 2013 in Teplice during which a Romani man was murdered.
"There were many false pieces of information in the reportage, but we see the most basic flaw as being the fact that the news anchor, Renáta Czadernová, described the whole incident in her introduction as the killing of a sausage thief - she specifically says: 'A man who killed a thief over a sausage has been sentenced to five years in prison.' From the rest of what is said it follows that it was the theft of a sausage that was supposed to be the impulse for the attack," the organizations said in their complaint.
David Oplatek of In IUSITITIA, the attorney for the victim's family, says that during the trial it was basically proven beyond any doubt that no such theft occurred. The judge reiterated that fact in the explanation of the verdict, during which journalists from TV Nova were present.
"The reportage about this incident gives viewers information that is not at all based on the court's verdict. One of the supervisors of the sausage stand even said in court that he had an inventory of the sausages and that none were missing," the organizations said.
According to Klára Kalibová, director of In IUSTITIA, and Zdeněk Ryšavý, director of ROMEA, o.p.s., the reportage's untruthful description of the victim of the attack as a thief greatly harmed the good name of the deceased. It also tainted perceptions of the case overall to place blame on the victim.
TV NOVA reporter Martin Kočárek lied
RRTV sent the complaint to the CET 21 company, which runs TV NOVA, and asked for an explanation. On the basis of an analysis of CET 21's response and other documents, RRTV has found that "the reportage was based on imprecise, incomplete and untrue information. The viewer was informed about these events in a distorted, factually incorrect way. Such conduct can not be considered an 'acceptable journalistic shortcut'."
The regulator decided to warn CET 21 of this violation of the law on radio and television broadcasting, which TV NOVA committed by violating its obligation to ensure "that the principles of balance and objectivity be honored in news reporting; when it broadcast its Television News series, specifically, the reportage 'He killed over a sausage and got five years' on 25 March 2014 at 19:30 on the Nova program, that reportage contained untrue information in its statement that the man who was killed was a sausage thief and that the perpetrator of the murder was the owner of the refreshment stand he stole from."
Many flaws in the reportage
The author of the reportage did not emphasize that both of the assailants involved attacked a group of Romani people only because they were talking with one another loudly. The convicted murderer, Stanislav Sýkora, pulled a knife on one of the Romani men and tried to stab him in the belly.
That man had the good luck to jump out of the way. Sýkora then attacked other members of the group, killing one of them and stabbing another two.
The court sentenced Sýkora to five years in prison for participating in an affray resulting in death. "The fact that the court has evaluated this case as one of a felony affray is scandalous. The essence of that crime is that everyone participating in the affray is a perpetrator. A case in which a group of people is assaulted by more than one attacker and merely defends themselves - which is precisely what this case involved - cannot be considered an affray. Sýkora should have been convicted of murder because he had to have known that stabbing someone in the chest with a knife could cause his death," attorney Oplatek said when the verdict was read.
News server Romea.cz has contacted TV NOVA for a response to the RRTV notification that it broke the law. Once we receive a response we will report on their next moves and their opinion of the finding.
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